When Christmas baking time rolled around, my grandfather had two traditional responsibilities: 1) pick me up at home after the bus dropped me off from school, and 2) chief cookie taste tester.

As tradition had it, my grandmother would always find at least one new cookie recipe to try. If the cookies passed the taste test, it might be lucky enough to be placed on the permanent Christmas baking list. These were the cookies that Gram would bake only once a year.

It was either before I was born or when I was very young that Gram found a recipe for whiskey balls. Although the cookie never passed the taste test, the story that surrounded it has been told every year.

I had to laugh going through my grandmother’s recipe card box when I found a recipe for Whiskey Balls. As usual, there is no source or mixing/baking instruction. I doubt this is the recipe that prompted the story that follows, but I included the recipe anyway.


Mom and Gram mixed the ingredients for the cookie dough and placed a single ball on a metal pie pan to see if it would spread. Gram went to the stairs off the kitchen. “Elmer, come up and test the cookies.”

Pretty soon my grandpa appeared in the kitchen and waited to be offered the cookies.

“These are whiskey balls.”

He picked up the cookie and took a bite. “Whiskey balls? Really? I don’t taste any whiskey. You need to add more whiskey.”

He disappeared down the stairs to his workshop, and Gram added more whiskey to the dough. Of course, as we all know, if you add liquid to dough, it becomes runny. To counter-act this, my gram added flour and placed another ball of dough onto the cookie sheet.

“Elmer, come taste again.”

Grandpa tried again. “Still no whiskey taste. Add more.” Instead of going downstairs, Grandpa went to the living room and turned the television on.

Gram added more whiskey, which mean more flour. Another taste test. Not enough whiskey. Repeat process.

The last taste test proclaimed the whiskey balls unsuccessful since my grandpa couldn’t even bite into the sample. Even a test drop of the cookie onto the kitchen floor resulted in a thud like a large marble hitting the floor.


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