Bourbon Makes Everything Better

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How accurate are our memories?  That’s a question Andy and I discuss frequently.  The answer has such an impact on everything, and it’s pretty clear that there is no 100% correct response.

But I’m 98% sure I’m remembering correctly that every evening my parents would sit down and have a bourbon and water – to toast the end of another day.  The bourbon was always Ancient Age.

Another childhood memory is of my mother giving me a mixture of honey, bourbon, lemon juice, and hot water when I had a cold or cough.  I don’t remember whether or not I ever faked a cough and cold in order to get that elixir.  But I really did like it.

My fondness for bourbon remains to this day.  And I’ve managed to successfully blend bourbon-based dishes into my holiday repertoire, making the whole family’s spirits a little jollier.

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Bulleit is our preferred brand of bourbon these days

Here is my “adults-only” remedy for a cough or cold or sore throat:

Bourbon Cold and Cough Remedy 

  • 1 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 oz hot water

And here are two of our bourbon-infused standbys – which we’ve already blogged about: Honolulu Walnut Date Christmas Pudding and Pumpkin Pie O’Brien.

To add to that we’ve got three other delicious bourbon recipes to offer up.  And Andy is offering up a MOST unusual and “spirited” greeting card in Andy’s Corner.

Maida Heatter, who passed away this year at the age of 102,  was known for her excellent dessert cookbooks, with cakes being her specialty.  Her 86-Proof Chocolate Cake is superb and keeps well for days.  Just beware of over-snacking!

The Classic Manhattan cocktail is…well…a classic.  Perfect for holiday entertaining.

And the Steamed Persimmon Pudding with Bourbon Sauce has been a part of our family holiday tradition for years.

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86-Proof Chocolate Cake.

Maida Heatter’s 86-Proof Chocolate Cake

Adapted from the NYTimes version of Maida Heatter’s recipe.

  • 5 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 c sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c instant espresso powder
  •  Boiling water
  •  Cold water
  • 1/2 c bourbon
  •  2 sticks butter (8 oz)
  • 1 tsp vanilla 
  • 2 c sugar
  • 3 eggs
  •  Additional bourbon (optional)
  •  Confectioner’s sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and dust a 9-inch bundt pan – or any other tube pan with a 10-cup capacity – with flour.  Be astute on covering every nook and cranny of the pan with the butter and flour or the cake might stick.

Place the chocolate in the top of a small double boiler over hot water on low heat. Cover and cook only until melted; then remove the top of the double boiler and let it cool slightly. (You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave; just keep a close eye on it.)

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a two-cup measuring cup dissolve the coffee in a little boiling water. Add cold water to the 1 1/2 cup line. Add the bourbon. Set aside.

Cream the butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Add the vanilla and sugar and beat to mix well. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Add the chocolate and beat until smooth.

Then, on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the liquid; scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition. Be sure to beat until smooth after the last addition. It will be a thin mixture.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Rotate the pan a bit briskly, first in one direction, then in the other, to level the top.

Bake for one hour and 10 to 15 minutes. Test by inserting a toothpick in the middle of the cake; the toothpick should come out clean and dry.

Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Then cover with a rack and invert. Remove the pan, sprinkle the cake with a little more bourbon (optional), and leave the cake upside down on a rack to cool. Before serving, if you wish, sprinkle the top with confectioners’ sugar through a fine strainer.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.
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Classic Manhattan

Classic Manhattan

  • 2 oz bourbon (or rye)
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes bitters, such as Angostura
  • Orange peel
  • 2 maraschino cherries
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.  Add bourbon, sweet vermouth,  and bitters
Strain into a martini glass.  Garnish with cherries.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.
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The Steamed Persimmon Pudding and a Hachiya persimmon

Steamed Persimmon Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

Pudding adapted from Bon Appetit, December 1982.

    1 c fresh persimmon puree, made from about 3 peeled, very ripe (like wrinkly on the outside with creamy flesh) Hachiya persimmons (do not use the squattier, paler Fuyu persimmons)
    2 tsp baking soda
    1/2 c butter
    1 1/2 c sugar
    2 eggs
    2 T bourbon – or dark rum
    1 T fresh lemon juice
    1 c flour
    1 tsp cinnamon
    3/4 tsp Diamond kosher salt
    2/3 c pecans, coarsely chopped

    Grease a 2 quart pudding mold. Combine persimmon puree and baking soda in small bowl and blend well. Cream butter with sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, rum and lemon juice.  Add flour, cinnamon and salt and mix well. Stir in persimmon puree and pecans.

    Spoon batter into prepared mold.  Snap lid onto mold. Set mold on a rack in very large pot. Add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the mold.  Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat until the water is at a simmer.  Cover the pot and steam pudding, maintaining water at a simmer until tester inserted in center of mold comes out clean, about 2 hours.


    • 1/4 c – 1 c sugar (we go for the 1 c sugar with this pudding recipe)
    • 1/2 c (1 stick) butter
    • 2 egg yolks or 1 whole egg
    • 2 to 4 T bourbon

    Heat the sugar and butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring, until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Place the egg yolks in a mixing bowl and VERY slowly pour the warm butter mixture into the bowl, whisking constantly.  Stir in the bourbon to finish the sauce, varying the amount of bourbon according to your taste preferences. If you are not serving the sauce immediately, cover and keep it warm.

    Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann


  1. grace says:

    When I ran the Test Kitchen for Time Life Books a colleague from the south gave me her family’s recipe for Honey Glazed Turkey, roasted in 2 cups of bourbon in a foil tented pan. We published the recipe so I know I have it somewhere. I remember the bourbon went into the gravy. The turkey was a magnificent mahogany color and super delicious.


  2. tricia53 says:

    You had me at your post’s title alone! Alas, I’ve had to abandon bourbon and Coke, long a favorite, but I do love a Manhattan! Why don’t I own martini glasses?


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