How to Make the Best Bourbon Meatballs Ever!

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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!!

 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!! ~

VINTAGE VIEW ~ these Bourbon Meatballs are from TVFGI archives, first published in 2012. As part of a series on the blog I’m reviving some of the best recipes that you may have missed over the years ~ I’ve updated my notes and taken new photos.  These spiked meatballs are legendary in our house, I hope you give them a try!

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
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55 ratings

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 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.
  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. 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.
  6. 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.


  • 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! ~


don’t forget to pin these bourbon meatballs!

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!! #meatballs #appetizer #bourbon #cocktailmeatballs #recipe #holidays #partyfood #easycocktailmeatballs #hotappetizer

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Leave a Reply


  • Reply
    November 19, 2018 at 9:22 am

    Can you cook these cocktail meatballs in the crockpot?

    • Reply
      November 19, 2018 at 10:38 am

      I would brown them first, and then you could finish them in the crock pot.

  • Reply
    November 14, 2018 at 8:48 am

    Can these be made in a slow cooker?

    • Reply
      November 14, 2018 at 9:34 am

      Yes but you’ll want to brown the meatballs first on the stove, I would think.

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    Gaye Currier
    May 7, 2018 at 7:46 am

    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 put 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. These would be great at a Christmas party.

    • Reply
      May 7, 2018 at 7:56 am

      Thanks so much Gaye ~ and I agree, these are perfect for the winter holidays, that’s when I make them most. So glad you liked them :)

  • Reply
    May 5, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    I made these to bring to a friend’s Kentucky Derby party this afternoon. They were gone well before the race! Glad to discover your site!

    • Reply
      May 5, 2018 at 8:11 pm

      Yay, hope they’ll become a Derby Day tradition :)

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    Thanks for the great article love it :)

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  • Reply
    April 22, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    Made these tonight…but realized halfway thru I had no bourbon ?. They were yummy just as is. Will make them with bourbon for sure on Derby Day! ??

    • Reply
      April 22, 2018 at 3:26 pm

      So funny, well, that’s good to know!

  • Reply
    April 15, 2018 at 7:51 pm

    Hi! I am hosting a Kentucky Derby Bunco party on Weds, and these look perfect! My question is — will the alcohol cook off and just leave flavor? I am pregnant and not sure if I should eat these or not. Thanks!!

    • Reply
      April 15, 2018 at 9:59 pm

      The alcohol will cook off somewhat, but not completely, Rachel, so while I personally wouldn’t be concerned, I think you should consult your doctor to be sure.

      • Reply
        Stacey Stuart
        May 5, 2018 at 9:10 am

        Can you use whisky? Are they the same? Do you recommend doing sauce first in a pan then adding to crock pot if are slow cooking frozen ones?

        • Reply
          May 5, 2018 at 9:33 am

          You can use whiskey, they’re very similar. And yes, I would make the sauce first and then add it to the slow cooker, then basically you would just be warming the meatballs up.

          • Stacey Stuart
            May 5, 2018 at 9:35 am


  • Reply
    April 14, 2018 at 4:31 am

    Important question. I’m planning a menu for a party that will include kids and grownups. Okay for the kids to eat the meatballs too? Even with that amount of Bourbon in it?

    • Reply
      April 14, 2018 at 7:38 am

      That’s your call Melanie, but I recommend making a separate dish for the kids, the bourbon is pretty pronounced in these meatballs.

  • Reply
    elisabeth m creel
    April 3, 2018 at 11:12 am

    These are great! Tested them out this weekend for a Kentucky Derby party I’m planning for next month. They are definitely going on the menu and on my FB page so I can rave about them.

  • Reply
    February 5, 2017 at 12:37 pm

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

    • Reply
      February 5, 2017 at 2:00 pm

      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.

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