Drunken Holiday Desserts

There’s no time like the holiday for celebrating. In the military community we are especially grateful when our loved ones make it home to spend the holidays with us, which calls for extra celebration. The joy of spouses returning safely from deployment is difficult to convey in words. But people don’t realize that in military life, there are lots of occasions to celebrate. In addition to close friends supporting each other and just celebrating life, there are unit parties and balls. And to all these celebrations, you want to bring your best dishes.

Whether you’re a military wife or a military husband, we like to celebrate our extreme gratitude with good food and good drink. And sometimes, we like to celebrate with both. Because if I’m being perfectly honest, scalloped potatoes or macaroni and cheese just aren’t as much fun to make as, say, anything with whiskey.

Wait, I’m allowed to cook with booze? you might be thinking. To which I say, Definitely! And I don’t mean the “cooking with wine” that some subscribe to, which simply means cooking while drinking a glass of wine (though this, too, is recommended; am I right, ladies?). I’m talking about actually including wine or spirits in the recipe.

Get the latest in beer, wine, and cocktail culture sent straight to your inbox.

And I can take this boozy dessert to a party? We say, yes. My only booze-specific baking tip is that you label it “adults only” or “spiked dessert.” Labels will especially come in handy when you’re eating leftovers before heading back to work, since you certainly don’t want to accidentally eat a bourbon oatmeal cookie before heading in the morning after leave! Cute little labeling ideas are all over Pinterest to help you out with this.

So here are our favorite drunken holiday desserts, from our military kitchen to yours with love this holiday season.

Note: In the military community, we cook for big groups, like, our entire unit, or all the neighbors. Family in the military equals, well, just about anyone you’ve ever met, because when you’re living this crazy life together, you bond very quickly. Definitely feel free to adjust the measurements if you’re cooking for smaller groups.

Oma’s Rum Balls

Moist Balls

My great-grandmother immigrated to the United States from Germany in the 1920s and brought all the good family recipes with her. She passed them down to my grandmother, then my aunts, and then to me. As a girl I would spent time with her in the kitchen learning the secrets. But there was one dish she had a hard time mastering, and that was rum balls. Her daughter, my grandmother, had secretly improved on the recipe, but she hadn’t shared her improvements with her mother, my great-grandmother. “Ricky,” my great-grandmother would say to my dad in heavily accented English and with no trace of irony, “you’re mother’s rum balls are always so much more moist than mine, yet we use the same recipe.” You see, when my grandmother made the recipe, it was all about the rum.

Sift together:

2 tbsp cocoa
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Combine & stir in:

¼ cup rum
2 tbsp light corn syrup


2 ½ cups crushed vanilla wafers (10 oz box)
1 cup pecans or walnuts

Roll into 1-inch balls. Roll in more confectioners’ sugar. Yield: approximately 48 balls 

Bourbon Oatmeal Cookies

Moist Balls

I love to make oatmeal cookies. They may be the easiest thing to whip up in my KitchenAid. I make them once a month for a local organization, though I have been known to make them last- minute just because I want a cookie. So when I saw this recipe from Baking Bites, I was intrigued. I don’t usually make oatmeal cookies with raisins, but when I saw that this recipe has me soak the raisins in bourbon, I was immediately on board.

Bourbon takes the place of the water or milk used in a regular oatmeal cookie recipe. With a few additional minutes of preparation, you can have a perfectly delicious adult dessert. And if you wanted to make a child-safe version, I’d make the second batch without raisins at all, so they could be easily distinguishable.


1 1/2 cups raisins
1/3 cup bourbon
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal

In a small bowl, combine bourbon, raisins, and sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and heat for 30-45 seconds in the microwave, until very warm. Microwave for a few additional seconds, if needed. Shake gently to dissolve the sugar. Allow the mixture to sit for at least 20 minutes so the raisins absorb the bourbon and plump up.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla extract and eggs, incorporating the eggs one at a time. Gradually blend in the flour mixture, then stir in the oatmeal and bowl of raisins and bourbon (any leftover bourbon can be poured into the batter).
Pack the dough into 1/4-cup scoops to form evenly sized dough balls. Arrange dough balls onto the prepared baking sheet, allowing about 4 inches between each cookie to allow for spread.
Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until the cookies are just about set in the center and the edges are very lightly browned. Makes about 2 dozen large cookies.

Boozy Dump Cake

Moist Balls

I love making dump cakes. Hear me out. While the name may leave something to be desired, the ease of assembly and the wonderful flavors make it all worthwhile. The hardest part of this recipe, from Delish, is measuring out the whiskey. I’m not joking. I used Maker’s Mark, since it’s a favorite of my husband’s, and soaked the cherries in it. It was heavenly.

I brought it to a Christmas party. I properly warned everyone that it was loaded with booze, and then started serving it up. It sure was potent! The chocolate and the cherries blended beautifully, and the whiskey was a great addition. It took a few bites before the whiskey kicked in. It was definitely a big hit!


21 oz can of cherries
1/2 cup whiskey
1 box dark chocolate fudge cake mix
1/2 cup melted butter

Combine cherries with whiskey. Then pour into greased 9 x 9 baking pan. Layer with cake mix and drizzle melted butter over it, as evenly as possible. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. If serving warm, consider topping with vanilla ice cream.

So here’s to you military families as you celebrate this holiday season. Whether you celebrate on the 25th or the 15th (thanks, staff duty!), enjoy some of these wonderful boozy desserts. We know you’re thinking of those who aren’t home to celebrate this year. In fact, while thinking of them, take their spouse a batch of bourbon oatmeal cookies or some rum balls. You know they need it!