These luscious little Bourbon Meatballs are going to be the hit of your next cocktail party ~ people will flock to the meatballs, but they’ll hang around for the sauce!!
bourbon cocktail meatballs ~ appetizers or dinner?
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!
The bourbon sauce is worth the price of admission
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.
which bourbon is best for bourbon spiked meatballs?
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. Makers Mark is the brand we use, but any bourbon you like will work in this recipe.
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.
tips for making cocktail meatballs
- Consider using your stand mixer to mix meatballs and meatloaf. It saves dirtying your hands, and the machine does an efficient but gentle job blending the ingredients.
- 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. The 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.
- If you don’t normally stock a full bar, 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?
These have got to be the best meatballs I have ever tasted. It is an awesome recipe. Made these for a Kentucky Derby party and they didn’t last to see the race!!! I made mine and then placed them in a crockpot on low, to keep them warm for the party. Absolutely a 5 star recipe. Used the extra meat for the Bourbon glazed meatloaf!!!!! Will use this throughout the year. ~Lynn
craving more bourbon?
- Bourbon Banana Butter
- Salted Maple Pot de Creme with Bourbon Whipped Cream
- Bourbon Glazed Meatloaf
- Black Bottom Bourbon Pecan Pie
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
- 1 cup apricot preserves
- 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
- Set oven to 350F
- Put the meatball 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.
- Form into small 1" balls, I use a small scoop to make them nice and uniform.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
notes and variations
- 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.