These luscious little Bourbon Meatballs are going to be the hit of your next party ~ people will flock to the meatballs, but they’ll hang around for the sauce!!

 These luscious little Bourbon Meatballs are going to be the talk of your next party ~ people will come for the meatballs, but they'll stay for the sauce!! ~

I have to confess, although these Bourbon Cocktail Meatballs are clearly meant to be appetizers, in our family we just as often make a meal out of them. Last night we had them with mashed potatoes and peas ~ so good! The meatballs themselves are moist and tender because I use a combination of ground beef and ground pork. The pork gives the meatballs great flavor, but also keeps them from being dense. I lighten them up even more with my favorite secret ingredient, Ritz cracker crumbs!

Tender and juicy Bourbon Cocktail Meatballs will be the hit of your next party! ~

The sauce for these meatballs is pretty darned amazing, if I do say so myself.  It’s thick and glossy, with a hefty dose of bourbon.  It’s also got that classic cocktail meatball combo of sweet and tangy, thanks to apricot jam and barbecue sauce.  Oh, and there’s a hint of heat from sriracha.  Just typing out those ingredients has got my mouth watering.

 These luscious little Bourbon Meatballs are going to be the hit of your next party ~ people will flock to the meatballs, but they'll hang around for the sauce!!

Since Grant drinks Manhattans we always have bourbon and rye whiskey around, and you can use either for the sauce in this recipe. But even if you don’t drink on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to keep certain spirits in your pantry. I consider bourbon and Marsala wine to be pantry staples.

I like to collect mini airline sized bottles of various spirits so they’re on hand when the need arises. Who knows when a stew might need a shot of cognac, or a frosting could use a touch of Kahlua?

Airline sized bottle of liquor

I’ve probably made a gazillion meatballs in my career ~ I’ve spiked them, super-sized them, and even made them with zucchini. I’ve drawn inspiration from all over the globe, too, with my Swedish Cocktail Meatballs, my Greek Meatballs in Lemon Sauce, and my Moroccan Cardamom and Lemon Meatballs. But it seems to me there’s something uniquely American about these mini cocktail meatballs slathered in a thick Bourbon sauce, I’m going to claim these for the homeland.

Bourbon Glazed Cocktail Meatballs

This recipe makes approximately 60 meatballs, so enough for a crowd. But they also freeze well, so you can use half the batch and freeze the rest if you’re not in party mode.

TIP: Meatballs can be frozen either cooked, or uncooked. Freeze them on a tray in a single layer until solid, and then transfer to a thick freezer bag or container.

Delicious Bourbon Cocktail Meatballs are tender and light, and slatherd in a dreamy bourbon barbecue sauce! ~


Bourbon Cocktail Meatballs

Yield: Lots!

 Bourbon Cocktail Meatballs


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1/2 cup (1 sleeve, finely crushed) Ritz Cracker crumbs (you can use plain bread crumbs)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • lots of fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (for browning the meatballs)
    Bourbon Sauce
  • 1 jar apricot preserves (about a cup, give or take)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp hot chili sauce (use mild chili sauce if you can't take the heat)
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 1/4 cup water


  1. Set oven to 350F
  2. Put the above ingredients, except the olive oil, in a large mixing bowl, breaking up the meat as you put it in. Mix together, using the tips of your fingers to gently combine everything without compacting the meat. I like to do this in my stand mixer.
  3. Form into small 1" balls, I use a small scoop to make them nice and uniform.
  4. Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet and brown the meatballs, working in batches. Transfer the meatballs to a baking sheet, and bake for about 10 minutes, until cooked through. (Check with a thermometer, it should read 160 degrees)
  5. Place cooked meatballs into the sauce, and let heat through until ready to serve. Serve on a plate with toothpicks, a drizzle of sauce, and lots of napkins. Serve a bowl of sauce on the side for extra dipping.
  6. To make the sauce, combine all the sauce ingredients in a skillet and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes until thick.


  • If you need to reheat these meatballs, do it gently. I put the meatballs in their sauce, cover with foil, and heat in a 350F oven until bubbling. If you do it on the stove, do it over medium heat, and just bring them to a simmer.

How to Make the Best Bourbon Meatballs ever! ~

 *This post was updated from a post published in 2012


don’t forget to pin it!

HOW TO MAKE THE BEST BOURBON MEATBALLS EVER! These luscious little Bourbon Meatballs are going to be the hit of your next party ~ people will flock to the meatballs, but they'll hang around for the sauce!!

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68 Responses to How to Make the Best Bourbon Meatballs Ever!

  1. John says:

    I have them in a crackpot. How do of get the sauce to thicken? Take the lid off?

    • Sue says:

      You can remove the meatballs and turn the pot to high, with the lid off, or do it in a saucepan on the stove and put the sauce back in the crockpot John.

  2. That’s a nice amount of bourbon and with the pork in the mix I bet these are divine. Think I’ll make them large!

  3. Adina says:

    I wish I had seen these meatballs yesterday. I made some and they were good, but your version sounds even better!

  4. That bourbon sauce sounds incredible, Sue! What a crowdpleaser!

  5. Alexandra says:

    Great combination of the sauce with the meatballs, Sue! It is on my list for next week!
    Just so to know….why do you cook the meatballs first in the skillet and then in the oven?

  6. Sensational for the holidays! I just love anything with bourbon, anything!

  7. You’ve definitely got my mouth watering before the sun’s even come up Sue!

  8. Sharon says:

    Bourbon meatballs?! What?? My husband is gonna die over these. I love that they make so many. I’ll be freezing some for sure. Thanks for the recipe!

  9. I wouldn’t have imagined Bourbon with meatballs, but reading this makes me think it must work.

  10. Ah, meatballs are like the best food ever for me. They are quick & easy to throw together and they never disappoint. I’ve never tried them with bourbon sauce, though, and yours sounds fantastic!

  11. Holly says:

    Wow – these look pretty amazing! I love the addition of bourbon and the hot chili sauce for some heat! YUM!

  12. Debra C. says:

    Oh my gosh these look absolutely delicious! What a perfect party treat!

  13. Looks like these would be brilliant in a meatball sandwich!

  14. Cathy says:

    I’m so happy I saw this, they look amazing. We are planning a party sometime just after New Year’s and this would make a great appetizer and not too time consuming to make. I love cooking with wine, brandy, now this, but then I have found so many great recipes from you!

  15. These appeal to me on so many levels! I could make a meal of them without any trouble. If I get invited out this year or invite others in – I’m making these juicy little bites of yum!

  16. Fabulous! I can just imagine sitting around at night popping one after another of these in to my mouth :) Yum :)

  17. Beth says:

    Two questions:

    1. Do you freeze the meatballs before or after baking?

    2. Can I make the sauce ahead and freeze that?

    • Sue says:

      Well, I think you can do it either way. Freezing the cooked meatballs would be easier. And yes, you could make the sauce ahead and freeze.

  18. Alicia says:

    Could I use frozen meatballs instead of making them myself?? Thanks!!!

  19. Ashlee says:

    Made these last week for a work function and they were AWESOME!! Made them Sunday, had some for dinner with mashed potatoes and carrots. The extra sauce on the potatoes was perfect! Warmed them in the crock pot the next day for work and they were nearly as good as the night before. This will certainly be something I make for dinner regularly now!

    • Sue says:

      Yay, and I can’t think of a better dinner! I really appreciate you taking the time to come back and leave a comment Ashlee <3

  20. Alfred says:

    I made these for a cocktail party last night and they were a huge hit! There were no leftovers and my boyfriend wouldn’t allow me to dispense of the remaining sauce.

  21. Shannon says:

    What type of hot chili sauce? Sriracha? Tabasco? Thanks!

  22. Jj Ebelhar says:

    Please help me. I cannot seem to pull up the recipe for “Its 5 o’clock somewhere bourbon cocktail meatballs.” I can see the ingredients, but when I click on “make it”, I just see the comments- no recipe. It’s so frustrating. I am relatively new to Pintrest, so I must be doing something wrong.

  23. Jonathan says:

    SUE! This sounds crazy amazing. I’m adding them to my Christmas Cocktail Party, appetizer list! – Jonathan (The Stiers Aesthetic)

  24. Lara says:

    Would these be still good if I cooked the meatballs a day in advance?

    • Sue says:

      I’m afraid they would not be as good, Lara, because cooked ground meat doesn’t keep very well, it gets dense and tough. You could form the meatballs ahead if you like.

      • Alfred says:

        Actually, I made these a day in advance, reheated them in the slow cooker and they were just as good as when they were freshly made. Set your slow cooker to warm and let them reheat for at least an hour.

  25. Jenny says:

    Sorry if this has already been asked… but can I use frozen meatballs?? Yours look divine but I need to save on time :) Thanks!!

  26. […] We got this Bourbon Meatball recipe from The View From Great Island cooking website. […]

  27. […] did our best to choose crowd pleasing appetizers.  The menu?  Saucy Bourbon Meatballs {recipe from the view from great island}, Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms, Pickled Prawns, Salmon Mousse and one of our family’s favorites […]

  28. J says:

    The Friends of the Library have an annual mini-golf in the library fundraiser and this year we are adding an adult evening wine/beer tasting. This will be a perfect recipe for me to make–it makes a lot with an affordable amount of ingredients. Thank you.
    I like your idea of appetizers on Fridays. If I lived alone, this is how I would eat. I do buy nips at different times when I am trying a recipe. I love the mini sized bottles that a lot of the liqueurs come in.

    • I think these would be perfect, and they don’t have to be super hot when you serve them. The only thing I would say is that meatballs, especially small meatballs, don’t do too well if made far in advance, they tend to get tough in the fridge. So I would make them just before the event! Enjoy!

  29. Anonymous says:

    I definately have to try these for the Super Bowl Party

  30. Anonymous says:

    What kind of BBQ sauce did you use? Also, when you say this recipe makes “lots”, about how many is that? Trying to plan ahead for a party. Need to know if I should double this.

  31. Matt says:

    As a bourbon drinker myself, I am excited to try this recipe. They look awesome!

  32. Mary says:

    I love the idea of using a bourbon sauce on these. The meatballs are, indeed, a great starter. Your pictures are getting better and better. Have a wonderful weekend. Blessings…Mary

  33. That’s a nice amount of bourbon and with the pork in the mix I bet these are divine. Think I’ll make them large!

  34. I love these and the bourbon must make them taste fantastic. I’ll save this for our cocktail hour get-together at the pool at the condo this winter. Thanks!

    It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere. Can’t wait until next Friday.

  35. Mary says:

    oh, my, heaven, not only did you leave me craving meatballs once again, but you managed to include all those fantastic flavors! I’ll start collecting the mini bottles with you, Sue. I LOVE having them around for holiday baking!

  36. belleau kitchen says:

    what an excellent excellent recipe, so perfect and quite fruity tasting I imagine? and you know it’s always ‘gin-o’clock’ somewhere….

  37. I need to do this with tofu! Bourbon, brown sugar, apricot, chili….this is like my savory mecca, right there! Love it!!

  38. Tabitha says:

    Just showed them to hubs, he swooned and asked if we could meet you next time we’re in LA!

  39. Tabitha says:

    I die! I’m drinking bourbon right now, it’s 7pm here, I have to make these!
    Oh I made your brownies two hours ago – complete disaster, my fault I guestimated the butter and chocolate and they are so oily and wet, still the hubs will eat them, but I like my brownies dry, chewy and cakey.

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