Cheers to boozy Christmas cookies and treats

Wishing you could create some special sweets for Christmas? Of course you are.

But the reality of what a half-day of cookie-making immersion will cost you in your other world may not fit into this season. That's where boozy, no-bake but homemade cookies come in.

Remember bourbon balls? Loaded with liquor and love, these bite-sized morsels have always produced a room full of silliness. After all, when shared in a 9-to-5 context, they are a legal form of imbibing. So plopping down a platter of them in the office break room pretty much screams "party to follow."

The genre of booze-laced cookies encompasses a luxurious range of liquor-based confections, from Kahlua balls and bourbon balls, amaretto balls and coconut ganache-rum balls.

Aside from the heavy influence of alcohol, the only other main consideration is the no-bake concept, which means you start with ready-made cookies or crackers, grinding them into a flour of sorts, then combining them with a sweet binding and a whole, lotta liquor. The most familiar cookies used in this project are vanilla wafers. A brilliant marketing ploy when the folks at Nabisco figured out a box of their humble little cookies could be transformed into such a delightful treat.

But truly, any dry, crumbly cookie will do. And in many cases, something like a ginger snap or simple graham cracker asserts its own delightful personality into the mix. Here are a few more tips for boozy cookie treats (see more recipes at

  • Toast the nuts, even if your recipe doesn't tell you to. It really improves the flavor. The nuts can be chopped by hand or in a food processor.
  • No matter what type of nut is called for in your recipe, feel free to substitute your favorite, be it hazelnut, macadamia, almond, pecan, cashew or walnut.
  • When a recipe calls for cocoa, that means unsweetened natural or Dutch-processed.
  • Liquor substitutions are perfectly OK. If you opt for rum, consider a full-flavored rum, such as Meyers rum. But you could use any number of bourbons, scotch or brandy.
  • When the batter is assembled, it can be quite sticky. To keep it manageable, chill it for at least 30 minutes and lightly grease your hands with some butter before handling the dough.
  • Think about creative garnishing: dipping in melted dark or white chocolate, rolling in powdered or granulated sugar or even finely chopped toasted nuts.
  • If you store these cookies in the refrigerator, bring them to room temperature before serving for a richer flavor.

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, cookbook author and artist. Readers can contact her by e-mail at or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at

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