Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie

At Magnolia Grill in Durham, North Carolina, Ben Barker has become one of the most innovative chefs in the entire nation, while his wife, Karen, has probably done more to add new dimension to Southern desserts than any other pastry expert. Her lemon-coconut tart was what impressed me first. Then, when I tasted this light, silky, beautifully balanced sweet potato pie spiked with bourbon, I realized that the more standard pie I’d always baked at Thanksgiving was utterly bland by comparison. This is an example of modern Southern cooking at its most intelligent and blissful.


  • 3 sweet potatoes (about pounds)
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 5 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon ground cloves
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • One unbaked 9-inch Basic Pie Shell


Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Place the potatoes in the oven and roast till easily pierced with a fork, about 1 hour. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes, place the flesh in a large mixing bowl, and mash with a potato masher to a smooth purée.

Reduce the oven to 350°F.

Add all remaining ingredients to the potato purée and whisk steadily till thoroughly blended. Scrape the mixture into the pie shell and bake till a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer the pie to a rack to cool completely.