Bourbon in Santa’s Cookies?

As I see it, a lot depends on whether Santa Claus is actually driving that sleigh or simply riding, a holly-jolly brand ambassador for the Christmas event. For all I know, he has a designated reindeer.

That matters to me, since the first time I tasted these oatmeal cookies with cranberries and pecans, I entertained a single thought: bourbon! With the cranberries being dried like raisins (you’ll often, in fact, see them sold as “craisins”), it would be easy to let them rehydrate in bourbon before they go into the cookie dough. Then again, that wouldn’t actually be re-HYDRATING, now would it?

Like many people, I’ve always loved the tradition of setting out cookies and milk for Santa. My kids certainly did it when they were small, and I always made sure to take a bite and a few sips of the milk, just for verisimilitude. Still, at some point, kids do start wondering (and then asking) how even a fellow as rotund as Santa eats a bit of cookie in one night in every house on earth. Thank goodness we at least had a chimney.

Still, the idea of adding bourbon to Santa’s cookies – after already upgrading them from the supermarket chocolate chip I remember to homemade oatmeal with nuts and berries – required a journey on my part. I never liked boozy desserts, a result no doubt of having more than one aunt who celebrated each holiday season by sending a decorated tin of “bourbon balls.”

I never knew what proof those things were, other than that they always burned their way down my young throat; but I did wonder occasionally if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms needed be notified. I hated bourbon balls. I swore off bourbon balls. But then, one otherwise inconsequential day, I discovered the strangest thing. I really love bourbon.

As with so many things in my life, the discovery was linked to sampling many bourbons that I could never, or at least would never, afford to buy. I learned the story of bourbon, which has a persuasive claim to being America’s spirit. And I tasted many bourbons, calling it my job of course, with the likes of Fred Noe of Jim Beam and Bill Samuels of Maker’s Mark. Once I loved sipping the really good stuff, it wasn’t hard to enjoy any half-decent bourbon at least a little.       

That changed things. For starters, it meant ditching the Coca-Cola. Or Dr Pepper. Or pretty much anything else that disguised, covered up or otherwise ruined the glorious taste of bourbon. And I began to wonder, even though all my aunts had by then taken their bourbon balls to the Great Beyond – yes, I really began to wonder if I’d been too quick to judge.

So this Christmas season, I haven’t had time to try soaking the craisins with a splash of bourbon. And as I say, it all depends on whether Santa is driving or riding. If he’s only riding but you still don’t want to risk messing up some great cookies, you might try replacing that silly glass of milk.


If you want to try adding bourbon, I’d recommend letting the craisins soak in about a shot glass-worth for no more than 30 minutes. After that, you should enjoy the way the bourbon’s vanilla notes enhance the vanilla already in the cookie recipe

1 ¾ sticks butter, melted

1 cup brown sugar, light or dark

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons vanilla

¾ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

3 cups oatmeal

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment or grease them with butter. Using a fork, thoroughly combine the melted butter with the brown sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla, stirring together. Add the flour, baking powder and salt, stirring until combined. Add the oatmeal, bourbon cranberries (and any remaining bourbon) and pecans, mixing to form a dough.

Spoon the dough onto the cookie sheet, then gently press down on each with a fork. Bake 10-12 minutes, until the edges turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a container with a spatula. Makes about 30 cookies.


  1. Shelly on December 20, 2020 at 3:50 pm

    I love your stories. I love how you write.
    It feels like I’m right there in the room talking with you. Excellent idea to soak those craisins!

    • DM Magazine on December 20, 2020 at 4:09 pm

      Thank you, Shelly. One of the joys of any and all writing is talking TO people – just as one of the joys of social media is talking WITH people.

Leave a Comment