What Is Hard Sauce?

You'll be adding this boozy topping to all your desserts and pastries from now on!

brandy butter with croissant
Photo: lutzflcat

You've heard of hard seltzer, hard popsicles, and even hard milkshakes. But what about hard sauce?

It's probably what you would expect it to be: a sauce spiked with alcohol. However, sauce might not be the best term for it because it's actually a spreadable dessert butter meant for topping pies, cobblers, puddings, and other warm confections.

What Is Hard Sauce?

Hard sauce, also known as brandy butter, is a classic British "sauce" that was originally made for topping Christmas pudding (which is a brandy-packed fruity bread pudding). It's a relatively simple recipe, usually consisting of three or four ingredients, that involves creaming butter, confectioners' sugar, brandy, and sometimes a flavored extract together. The finished "sauce" is quite stiff (essentially like whipped butter) and is spooned over warm desserts where it will begin to melt into more of a saucy texture. However, don't expect hard sauce to ever reach a pourable consistency.

In the U.K. hard sauce is typically associated with the Christmas and New Year's holiday season because it's usually served alongside Christmas pudding and mince pies. But it can really be served on any dessert or pastry at any time of the year.

Additionally, hard sauce is pretty customizable. Not only can you change out the booze — some people like to use rum or whiskey in place of the brandy — but you can also add flavors for different desserts. Try making a hard sauce with vanilla extract, almond extract, orange zest, or nutmeg for some more zing.

Play around with the ratios too. If you like a little extra alcohol kick, add in another splash of your liquor of choice. But be careful not to add too much liquid or your sauce won't set up in the fridge.

How to Use Hard Sauce

The boozy, creamy sauce is a great complement for basically any dessert. It doesn't have an overpowering flavor, so it won't take away from your pie, bread pudding, cobbler, gingerbread, crisp, or anything else. But it can also hold its own, so you'll be able to taste a buttery, alcohol punch whenever you bite into it.

The key really is to serve the chilled hard sauce over a warm dessert or pastry. You can also wait for the brandy butter to come to room temperature to make it more spreadable. Either way, once it touches the warm confection, it'll melt into the perfect buttery consistency.

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