Fall is here, and with it comes some of our favorite things: cozy sweaters, crunchy leaves, and, of course, the return of some beloved cool weather flavors. And while many people associate fall with pumpkin, apple, and gingerbread, we at VinePair are most excited for another seasonal staple: bourbon.
But why not have it all? From seasonal whiskeys, to sweet and spiced cocktails, there are endless ways to sip bourbon during the cooler months. This year, however, we’re getting creative — combining the spirit with the fall desserts we adore, all in one go. After all, who doesn’t love multitasking?
These tasty recipes combine two of our favorite fall pastimes: The sweet pursuit of decadent desserts, and the heat and comfort of cooking with bourbon. From chocolate bourbon balls, to banana bourbon layer cake, these booze-soaked delicacies prove that bourbon is just as nice to eat as it is to drink.
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Pair with: Stout, such as Guinness
While most spirit-infused desserts bake out their booze, these no-bake bourbon balls are for adults only. Made with pecans, bourbon, chocolate, and lots of buttery goodness, these handheld sweets are easy to assemble and ideal for enjoying as a post-dinner dessert and tipple — all in one indulgent bite. The deep, roasty notes of stout will enhance this dessert’s nutty, chocolatey flavors.
Pair with: A Mint Julep
With its simple flavor profile, this cake allows its star ingredient — bourbon — to truly shine. The base is made with sour cream and lots of butter for a melt-in-your-mouth texture. For an extra kick, top it all off with a sweet bourbon glaze and bourbon-soaked berries (VinePair suggests using Elijah Craig or Knob Creek for this recipe). Pair this classic Kentuckian dessert with another Bluegrass State staple, the Mint Julep, for a festive southern experience.
Pair with: A Gold Rush
Every pie-lover knows that the true star of the dessert is a good crust. This recipe proves that, incorporating a surprising spirit into the recipe for an extra flaky and delicious result. Inside each mini pie are ripe, juicy peaches, brown sugar, baking spices, bourbon, and a hint of honey — ingredients that pair beautifully with a refreshing Gold Rush cocktail.
Pair with: Irish Coffee
A rich and decadent dessert packed with the bold flavors of coffee, chocolate, and bourbon, this cake is topped with a bourbon glaze and is sure to become an instant favorite. Use your top-shelf bourbon for this recipe; the resulting vanilla and caramel notes that come through in the finished product will make it worth your while. Pair it with Irish Coffee to bring out the dessert’s sweet and roasty undertones.
Browned Butter & Bourbon Blondies (Saving Room for Dessert)
Pair with: Wheated bourbon, such as Larceny Small Batch
For a dessert straight out of a bourbon-lover’s dream, try these browned butter and bourbon blondies. These mess-free squares travel well, and are perfect for sharing — or saving. To spice up the dessert, try sipping wheated bourbon alongside these blondies. With its lighter flavor profile, this slightly sweet spirit is a perfect match for these luscious squares.
Easiest Caramel Apple Clafoutis (Bon Appetit)
Pair with: Vin Santo, such as 2008 Felsina Vin Santo
This one-skillet apple dessert is ideal for baking newbies, requiring minimal prep and cleanup compared to traditional pie. Apples and bourbon are this dessert’s secret weapons, adding a level of spice and acidity to this otherwise sweet dish. Try pairing this dish with an equally fruit-forward dessert wine, such as Vin Santo. This balanced Italian dessert wine adds to the apple-pie sweetness without overpowering it.
Bourbon-Cream Cheese Brownies (My Recipes)
Pair with: Flanders red ale, such as Rodenbach Classic
Bourbon-infused cream cheese is sandwiched between layers of brownie batter in this decadent treat. The rich chocolate and cheese pair beautifully with a tart Flanders red ale like Rodenbach. The sour and sweet character of this Flemish beer refreshes the palate while adding oaky, fruity flavors.
Maple-Bourbon Banana Pudding Cake (Food and Wine)
Pair with: Hefeweizen, such as Wallenpaupack Brewing Company Hawley Hefeweizen
This low-effort cake is rich and syrupy and adds a couple of drams of bourbon for its characteristic sweet, warm vanilla notes. As the cake bakes, a bourbon and maple syrup sauce forms on the bottom, making for a dessert that’s half cake, half pudding, and all delicious. To ease up on the viscous nature of this dish, pair a slice of cake with a tall glass of hefeweizen, which lifts and enhances the cake’s banana flavors.
Banana Bourbon Layer Cake (Martha Stewart)
Pair with: Port wine, such as Zuccardi Malamado Malbec Port
This boozy cake is so tasty, it’s bananas. In a rich take on a New Orleans staple, the Bananas Foster, bourbon, banana, and butter are flambéed on top of a layer cake. The fiery excitement results in a moist, syrupy dessert that’s sure to impress your guests. Port wine’s spicy undertones even out the sweetness of this rich dessert.
Bourbon Apple Crisp Shooters with Bourbon Cream (Betty Crocker)
Pair with: Apple brandy, such as Laird’s Single Barrel
Take a shot and eat it, too, with this sippable version of an apple crisp. As both dessert and after-dinner cocktail, it’s an ideal date-night treat or weekend reward, and it requires only 15 minutes of preparation. Sipping this shooter alongside a small glass of apple brandy (shot glass optional) both cleanses the palate between sips and stretches out the experience of the apple crisp.
Chocolate Fudge Pecan Pie Tart (How Sweet Eats)
Pair with: Brown ale, such as Anderson Valley Black Rice Ale
This chocolatey pecan pie may put the traditional version to shame. Bourbon is combined with chocolate, pecans, and a whole lot of butter to make this grownup take on a Thanksgiving favorite. Brown ale’s lightly chocolatey, roasty, and nutty flavors meld with those in the chocolate fudge, while its carbonation lifts the fudge flavors so you can appreciate the next bite.
Gluten-Free Bourbon Caramel Samoas (Minimalist Baker)
Pair with: Gluten-free IPA, such as Glutenberg IPA
Delight your adult and childhood taste buds with this gluten-free, dairy-free take on the Samoa. Unlike the Girl Scout cookie, this so-called “healthier” version is topped with bourbon caramel sauce — made from only four ingredients. (Bourbon, unless made with 100 percent corn, is made using gluten-containing ingredients such as malted barley and wheat. However, distillation removes gluten proteins from the spirit.) To complete your gluten-free dessert experience, pair these cookies with a gluten-free IPA. The citrusy aromas and flavors from the hops are a great complement to the caramel sweetness.
Pumpkin Bread With Brown Butter and Bourbon (New York Times Cooking)
Pair with: Moscato d’Asti, such as 2018 Marenco Strev Moscato d’Asti
If it wasn’t already clear, pumpkin is fall’s BFF. From pumpkin spiced lattes, to pumpkin beers, the flavor has taken the culinary world by storm. This take on classic pumpkin bread adds bourbon to the mix for an extra hearty and spicy taste. Sweet, fruity Moscato d’Asti offers a satisfying contrast to this savory dessert.
Bourbon Peach Cobbler (Food Network)
Pair with: High-rye bourbon, such as Old Grand-Dad Bonded
This fruitful cobbler has peach, cinnamon, and bourbon flavors. It’s also relatively easy to make — taking about an hour to prepare, bake, and devour. High-rye bourbon is a great match for this recipe, as its subtly spicy bite balances out the sweet and fruity flavors of this dessert.