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Beyond Bourbon Balls



Like you, dessert is more fun when it's tipsy. Think of it this way: Sober karaoke. Martini karaoke. Sober bread pudding. Rum bread pudding. Sober brunch. Bloody Mary brunch. Sober pears. Wino pears. See? Here are four recipes to put those straggling post-holiday home-bar ingredients to good use—beyond cocktails and, yes, beyond bourbon balls.


Not as fancy as they sound. Here, pears take a nice, long bath in a tub of mulled wine—red, sweetened with honey and orange, spiced with star anise—and emerge rosy-hued and happy. You continue to cook the wine until it's thick and syrupy, like boozy balsamic, and serve it with the pears. Save any extra for ice cream sundaes.

1 cup dry red wine

1/4 cup just-squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons honey

2 star anise

1 strip orange peel

2 firm pears, peeled, halved, cored

Combine all ingredients but the pears in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Add the pears and continue to simmer for about thirty minutes, turning occasionally, until they are knife-tender. Remove from the pot and keep cooking the wine until it thickens. Serve the pears warm, room temperature, or chilled, with wine syrup drizzled on top.



Classic baba au rhum is a yeast-raised cake, doused in rum syrup, served with soft cream—the sort of old-school dessert Julia Child kept in her back pocket. "Babas," she wrote in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, "always seem to delight guests." Fifty-five years later, babas are overdue for a revival. This ode flips the original formula on its head, replacing from-scratch cake with soft, buttery bread—think challah or brioche.

2 1/2 cups whole milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup dark rum

4 large eggs

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pinch salt

8 cups cubed bread

1/2 cup golden raisins

Cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an eight-by-eight-inch casserole dish. Whisk the milk, butter, rum, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl until smooth. Add the bread and raisins and toss gently to combine. Pour into the prepared casserole dish. Bake for thirty-five minutes, until the top begins to brown and the custard barely jiggles once shook. Serve warm or at room temperature, with lots of cream to pour on top.


The genius of the no-churn method: sweetened condensed milk plus whipped cream equals an ice cream doppelgänger. Many claim to have originated the technique, but when in doubt about anything, I always give credit to Martha Stewart. This version is spiked with espresso and whiskey to become a frozen revamp of a holiday favorite. It makes a great base for an extra-boozy milkshake.

One (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 shot espresso

3 tablespoons whiskey

2 cups heavy cream

Stir together the sweetened condensed milk, espresso, and whiskey in a large bowl. In a separate bowl with a whisk or in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the cream until nearly stiff peaks form. Gently fold the cream into the spiked milk mixture. Transfer to a loaf pan and freeze for at least four hours. I actually like this best when it's still semifreddo, almost like soft-serve.


Sabayon, the French cousin to the Italian zabaione, is an ethereal, airy marsala custard, thickened by egg yolks and endless whisking and magic. In the summer, you're likely to find it folded into whipped cream and served with fresh berries. In the winter, I like to cozy it up—bright citrus, drowned in sabayon, dusted with sugar, broiled until the top begins to burn. If you can't find satsumas, clementines work, too.

1/2 cup marsala wine

1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar, plus more to brûlée

4 egg yolks

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 satsumas, peeled and sectioned

Combine the wine, sugar, and yolks in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Turn on an album or a podcast and whisk until the mixture becomes frothy and thick, like soft cream. This will take about ten minutes. When you're there, remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Preheat the broiler on your oven. Pour the sabayon evenly between four oven-safe ramekins. Add one satsuma to each. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Set the ramekins on a sheet tray and slide under the broiler. Cook until the tops are deeply brown, about two minutes. Serve immediately.


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