Kentucky is known for its Southern hospitality and delicious comfort food. Of course, Louisville itself is the reigning king of many regional favorites such as mutton barbeque, burgoo and the Hot Brown sandwich—and we can’t forget caterer Miss Jennie Benedict, who we can thank for the Benedictine sandwich—but, if you are craving something sweet, local, and definitely Louisville, pick up a few Bourbon Balls and/or Modjeskas.
Bourbon balls and Modjeskas are two candies are regional favorites that are enjoyed throughout the year, but during the holidays, the sweet chocolate balls and the Modjeskas surge in popularity.
What is a Kentucky bourbon ball?
Bite-sized and rich, there are different styles of Bourbon balls. The most popular, at least in Kentucky, combines butter, sugar and bourbon. The mixture is then chilled, rolled into balls, dipped in melted chocolate, and topped with a pecan. You read that right, the balls are not baked, so the alcohol from the booze is still present in the candy. For this reason, Bourbon Balls are not a treat for kids, they are a sweet flavor for adults.
There are many versions, some recipes use crushed cookies while others add chopped pecans to the center. Many cooks and candy makers have their own secret recipe using vanilla or other flavors, too. But no matter what your preference, the end result is consistently a sweet chocolate Bourbon candy.
- Kentucky Bourbon Ball Recipe
What is a Modjeska?
Created in Louisville, Modjeskas are marshmallows—usually handmade—dipped in sweet caramel. Anton Busath, a candy maker from France who established Busath’s Candies in Louisville, invented the treat and named them after Helena Modjeska, a Polish actress famous.
She was known for her portrayal of Shakespearean roles and appearances with John Barrymore.
In 1883, Helena Modjeska performed an Ibsen play in Louisville, star struck Busath asked if his caramel treat could bear her name. Modjeska agreed and for many years Busath’s Candies were the only makers who could legally call the marshmallow treat a Modjeska. A fire destroyed the store in the 1940s and other caramel-dipped marshmallow producers began to call their creations Modjeskas, too.
Muth’s Candies claim to have the original recipe and they do make a delicious Modjeska. Although who makes the best is up for debate, many candy makers in the region are dipping delicious handmade marshmallows and filling holiday tables with the sweet confection. When only a Louisville tradition will do, Modjeskas are a delightful family treat. It is difficult to find them in any other region.
What about Buckeyes?
While it is common to see buckeye candies at Christmas cookie parties and Kentucky Derby parties, the treat is not technically from Kentucky. The candies originated in Ohio, hence the name... each resembles a nut from the buckeye tree, the state tree of Ohio. That said, there are many residents of Kentucky who have business and family connections to Ohio, so Buckeyes, if you are widening regional boundaries, could be considered a regional candy, too.
Where can I buy these regional favorites?
Most of the locally owned candy shops in Louisville concoct all of these beloved candies. Bourbon balls are also found in the gift shops of distilleries, such as Makers Mark, too. If you are touring a local distillery, odds are high you will come across some chocolate bourbon candies for purchase.
Tour the Kentucky Bourbon Trail - Where to go and how to access all of Kentucky's bourbon tours.
What Is the Urban Bourbon Trail? - Wait? I can learn about bourbon without leaving Louisville? Yup, it is true, check out the Urban Bourbon Trail for ideas on where to go and what to sip.
Top 3 Ways to Explore Bourbon Country - Confused on which bourbon experience is for you? This link will help you decide how to experience bourbon country. On your own, with friends, with family, or any which way you choose.