Should You Serve Bourbon Balls To Children? Here's What To Know

Bourbon balls are a delicious spiked treat — but they're fine for kiddos and sober folks too because the alcohol gets cooked off...right? Nope.

According to a study by the USDA, via Idaho State University, the actual amount of alcohol that cooks off of food can range from 95% to 4%. The largest determining factor for how much booze (if any) gets cooked off is how long the dish is held at boiling point (173 degrees Fahrenheit). But, when it comes to baking versus cooking, the boiling point isn't typically a place that bakers need to go. And, when it comes to bourbon balls, these treats are a dessert — not a baked good — and do not get baked or heated in any way at any point.

Bourbon balls are a no-bake treat, which means you don't have to turn on the oven to whip up a tasty grown-up treat on a hot summer day (awesome). But, that also means any bourbon you add is staying in the dessert, and those boozy balls should stay on the adult table.

The boozy kick doesn't go anywhere

Bourbon balls are an innovative, thrifty way to make use of the cookie crumbs at the bottom of the batch and the last few inches in a bottle of bourbon. And whipping up an impressive treat doesn't have to compromise your budget. Just slam some toasted pecans, graham cracker crumbs, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar in a food processor, mix it with corn syrup, maple syrup, and (of course) bourbon, and roll 'em into balls. That's it. You can dunk 'em in a layer of chocolate too, if you're feeling like a loose cannon. Incidentally, rolling these simple, fun, hands-on balls is a great opportunity for getting kiddos involved in the kitchen — with the right ingredients, of course. 

If you want to swap the liquor for a non-alcoholic bourbon alternative, the rich, oaky, caramel-forward version by Free Spirits ($37) is a solid fit. So is the slightly less expensive vanilla oak zero-proof "whiskey" by Ritual ($29.99), which is sweeter with less depth, and a good fit for dessert uses. Or, you could skip the bourbon altogether and add another flavorful, potent, non-booze-related ingredient like real Vermont maple syrup or all-natural cashew butter. That way, your dessert balls won't end up tasting plain or boring, and they won't need to rely on the complex notes of the bourbon to do the gastronomic heavy lifting — pleasing to discerning grown-up palates and totally kid-friendly. (If you're still itching to satisfy a spiked dessert craving, might we suggest a boozy affogato?)