How to Bake Boozy Pies — And 8 Recipes Worth Trying
Boozy pies are pretty ingenious — like drinks and dessert in one. Spirits like rum, bourbon, cognac, whiskey, and Port are all incredible ways to add depth of flavor to pies.
Before you go tipping your favorite liquor into your pie, however, there are a few things to keep in mind. The ratio of alcohol to filling is very important, and when and how much to add varies depending on the kind of pie you’re making.
“Things to consider are sugar and moisture content,” says Clarice Lam, pastry chef and owner of The Baking Bean in Brooklyn, New York. “You should also consider whether you want just the base flavor by burning off the alcohol, or if you want to get a little tipsy from it by adding it in the end to cold, custard-like pies.”
What Kinds of Booze Work Best for Pies?
Classic bourbon is ideal in a pecan pie, says Lyndsy McDonald, executive pastry chef with The Ritz-Carlton-Sarasota in Florida. “If you’re not going to cook it off, use something top-shelf for a prominent flavor,” she says. If your recipe does require cooking the alcohol, you can opt for a standard bourbon such as Jack Daniels.
Frangelico liqueur, which has a rich hazelnut flavor, is ideal for cream pies, especially chocolate custard or chocolate mousse pies, says McDonald. And tequila for key lime pies is a must. “I would put [tequila] in all desserts if I could,” she adds.
Clear spirits such as vodka and gin don’t do much for pies, as their flavors won’t come through in baked goods. (Using vodka to make pie crust, however, is a different story.)
When and How Much Booze to Add
When making a pie with a pre-cooked filling, such as a custard or ganache, always add your alcohol at the end of the cooking process so that the flavor doesn’t completely cook off, says Danielle Marelli, pastry chef at Travelle at The Langham in Chicago (she follows the same rule with vanilla extract). This way, “you’re allowing that flavor to be as fresh as possible,” she says. For pie fillings that aren’t cooked prior to baking, such as pumpkin or pecan, you can add the alcohol or flavoring in at any point, says Marelli.
The key is to add booze to pies very slowly, says McDonald. Add enough to be able to taste it, then adjust as necessary. Be careful not to add too much, as it can ruin the texture of a pie — such as breaking up a curd or mousse and turning it grainy or causing it to separate.
If you really want to amp up the flavor in a pecan pie, here’s an insider trick: Soak the pecans in whiskey for 10 minutes before adding to the pie filling, says Alexis Francisco, pastry chef at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in Nashville. (She also makes a killer bourbon-spiked s’mores pie and spiced rum pumpkin pie during the holidays.)
The Best Flavor Combos for Boozy Pies
McDonald’s favorite boozy pie is a chocolate mousse pie made with Frangelico and topped with toasted hazelnuts. “It’s the ultimate Nutella-like dessert,” she says. You also can’t go wrong with pecan pie spiked with classic bourbon, especially during the holidays, she adds.
Liqueurs such as Kahlúa and Bailey’s Irish Cream are always good flavor pairings with chocolate, says Lam. She also likes amaretto with apple, mulled wine, and pears, and bourbon with maple or pumpkin.
If you’re stumped on what flavor combination to try, simply follow this advice from pastry chef Ann Kirk at Little Dom’s in Los Angeles: “Think about your favorite cocktail and what its flavors are. Then make it into a pie!”
Boozy Pie Recipes
Ready to give it a try? Here are eight boozy pie recipes worthy of your holiday dessert spread. Just make sure you have other options on hand for the kids — these are for adults only.
1. Kentucky Bourbon and Walnut Pie
Crunchy pecans paired with smooth, bittersweet chocolate chunks and a heavenly, almost butterscotch-like filling make this pie a dream. Two tablespoons of your favorite bourbon, along with vanilla extract, enhance the rich flavors to take it over the top.
Get the recipe: Kentucky Bourbon and Walnut Pie
2. Instant Pot Bourbon Pecan Pie
This recipe says the two tablespoons of bourbon tucked inside the filling are optional, but we say leave ’em in. Bonus: This easy-peasy dessert takes only half an hour to bake in the Instant Pot.
Get the recipe: Instant Pot Bourbon Pecan Pie
3. Ina Garten’s Ultimate Pumpkin Pie
What makes Queen Ina Garten’s pumpkin pie so special? The addition of two special ingredients: orange zest and dark rum. Our reviewer thought the citrus was a little too much, so you may want to back off on that part. This pie is also quite boozy — especially with the addition of rum-spiked whipped cream.
Get the recipe: Ina Garten’s Ultimate Pumpkin Pie
4. Classic Grasshopper Pie
Ah, crème de menthe. That dusty bottle of forgotten liqueur (that comes in both clear and green varieties) is ready for its glory days again in this cool, creamy pie, which brings the classic chocolate-mint flavor combo back together. A couple of tablespoons of white crème de cacao — an ingredient in the cocktail by the same name — are also essential.
Get the recipe: Classic Grasshopper Pie
5. Tequila Lime Margarita Pie
If you don’t live in Florida, a tequila-spiked pie might come as a surprise to your holiday dinner guests. Yet once they taste the rich, creamy filling — spiked with a whopping 1/2 cup of tequila (use the good stuff!) — they won’t mind one bit.
Get the recipe: Tequila Lime Margarita Pie from Bunsen Burner Bakery
6. Fudge Brownie and Chocolate Liqueur Crème Brûlée Pie
Just the name of this decadent pie feels like reason enough to make it — who doesn’t love these two iconic desserts? In this mash-up, a layer of fudgy brownies tops a flaky pie crust, then is enveloped by a boozy, silky, chocolatey crème brûlée layer studded with Frangelico hazelnut liqueur (with an option to swap bourbon or Kahlúa).
Get the recipe: Fudge Brownie and Chocolate Liqueur Crème Brûlée from Half Baked Harvest
7. Amaretto Cream Pie
A quarter-cup of velvety amaretto imparts a luscious almond flavor to this custard pie, poured into a pre-baked almond cookie crust and topped with homemade whipped cream and sliced almonds for garnish. The hard part? Waiting for it to cool, then chilling overnight before diving in.
Get the recipe: Amaretto Cream Pie from Saving Room for Dessert
8. Kahlúa Pudding Pie
A buttery graham cracker crust serves as the perfect base for this rich chilled pie, which incorporates a quarter-cup of Kahlúa in the chocolate filling as well as a splash in the whipped cream to really bring this dessert home.
Get the recipe: Kahlúa Pudding Pie from Handle the Heat