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Kentucky Bourbon Balls

Gift-worthy Kentucky Christmas Sweets

Because the Commonwealth of Kentucky is the Bourbon Capital of the World, it’s natural to find and want to share authentic Kentucky bourbon in a variety of forms with friends and family in or outside the state.

One of the most tasty and popular bourbon indulgences may not be the liquid but the decadent Kentucky Bourbon Ball. Did you know this tasty treat was created by a Kentucky woman in 1938? Nearly half a decade after prohibition ended and women were permitted to vote, Ruth Hanly Booe became a minor culinary celebrity due to her bourbon-enhanced confections, described by her grandson as “a whiskey-spiked cream center enrobed in dark chocolate and topped with a pecan.”

The story he heard was that his grandmother got the idea for bourbon balls after Kentucky’s Governor Ruby Laffoon remarked that “there was no better taste than a bite of chocolate followed by a sip of bourbon,” Martin wrote in an article about Derby Day for Epicurious magazine. Another tale told of this iconic Kentucky “flavorite” is that a dignitary attending Frankfort’s sesquicentennial celebration in 1936 commented that the two best tastes in the world are Mrs. Booe’s candies and a fine Kentucky bourbon.

Mrs. Booe and her friend Rebecca Gooch started the Rebecca Ruth Candy Company in 1919 in Frankfort, home of the first Kentucky Bourbon Balls and other confections. Today, visitors are welcome to tour the candy company, see how the candy is made and purchase those famous bourbon balls, still made with Ruth’s 76-year-old secret recipe.
It took two years for Ruth to perfect her recipe and we’re not privy to her ingredient list or directions, so here’s one of two versions of authentic Kentucky Bourbon Balls. How do you personalize your version: Do you substitute crushed vanilla wafers for the chopped pecans? Do you add cocoa or melted chocolate to the cream center? Experiment with your own creations.

Nothing spreads Kentucky’s holiday spirit like a homemade treat–from these sinful bourbon balls to savory derby pie made into tarts or a decadent Jim Beam Kentucky Bourbon Cake. Start your holiday cooking early and give the gift of good (Kentucky) taste from the Kentucky Proud section of your favorite grocery store, restaurant or farmer’s market.