Bourbon Cocktail Meatballs

Between now and the New Year I’m dedicating my Fridays to the cocktail hour.  I’m going to explore appetizers, little plates, tapas, and all manner of late in the day snacks, nibbles, finger food, and the occasional libation to wash it all down with.  I’m excited, this is my favorite way to eat.

Classic Retro Bourbon Cocktail Meatballs

My husband drinks Manhattans, so we always have some kind of bourbon around.  What I like to do, especially around this time of year, is collect mini bottles of all sorts of liquor.  It’s so much cheaper than investing in full sizes, and allows me to play and experiment.  So start your collections, we’ll put them to good use in the next few months!

Airline sized bottle of liquor

Meatballs are an international food, but I do believe the idea of making little minis, sticking a toothpick in, and slathering them with bourbon sauce is a wholly American invention.

Bourbon Glazed Cocktail Meatballs

This recipe makes a lot of meatballs, I’m going to freeze half, which you can do either before or after cooking.

Bourbon Meatballs

Yield: Lots!


  • 3/4 lb ground beef
  • 3/4 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
  • 3 Tbsp hot chili sauce (use mild chili sauce if you can't take the heat)
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1/4 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. Form into small 1" balls, I use a small scoop to make them nice and uniform.
  3. 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)
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Cocktail Meatballs in a Bourbon Sauce
Bourbon Meatballs are a classic appetizer



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Bourbon Cocktail Meatballs


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44 Responses to It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere Friday: Bourbon Meatballs

  1. 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.

  2. Alicia says:

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

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. Shannon says:

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

  6. 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.

  7. Jonathan says:

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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!!

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

  11. […] 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 […]

  12. 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!

  13. Anonymous says:

    I definately have to try these for the Super Bowl Party

  14. 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.

  15. Matt says:

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

  16. 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

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. 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….

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

  22. Tabitha says:

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

  23. 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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