How to Make the Best Bourbon Meatballs Ever!

How to Make the Best Bourbon Meatballs ever! ~

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!!

 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!! ~

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!

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

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.

 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!!

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.

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

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?

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

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

How to Make the Best Bourbon Meatballs ever! ~

craving more bourbon?

3.48 from 639 votes

Bourbon Cocktail Meatballs

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!!
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Yield 60 meatballs
Author Sue Moran



  • 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 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.

Cook's notes

  • 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.
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    May 6, 2022 at 4:18 pm

    5 stars
    These are scrumptious!
    Can I leave them on warm in the crockpot for 24 hours, or should I refrigerate and add hot sauce tomorrow?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      May 6, 2022 at 5:08 pm

      I would refrigerate Julie 🙂

  • Reply
    Meghan Olsen
    May 4, 2022 at 8:15 am

    These look perfect for my meat and bourbon loving “boys” to enjoy on Derby Day! Is there another item I can substitute for the molasses? I don’t have any, and hate to buy it for such a small amount, when I likely won’t need the rest of it anytime soon!

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      May 4, 2022 at 8:38 am

      Feel free to just leave it out, there’s plenty of flavor in these meatballs without it.

  • Reply
    November 30, 2021 at 11:18 am

    5 stars
    These were delicious. Making again for a party. My question is can I use peach preserves?

  • Reply
    May 2, 2021 at 7:13 pm

    5 stars
    Made these Bourbon Meatballs for a Kentucky Derby Party. They were EVERYONE’s Favorite!! Positively delicious

  • Reply
    April 8, 2021 at 1:36 pm

    4 stars
    Hi Sue,
    I want to make these meatballs for our Kentucky Derby party. If I prepare them in advance should I cook them and add the sauce to the meatballs when I put in the freezer? I’m hoping to be able to thaw in the refrigerator then warm up in my crockpot. Will this work?
    Thanks, Carol

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      April 8, 2021 at 3:48 pm

      I might freeze the meatballs and sauce separately, that’s just my instinct. Then you should be able to warm in the crock pot.

  • Reply
    April 6, 2021 at 7:20 am

    Have you ever omitted the crackers? I have a guest who is gluten free.

  • Reply
    February 2, 2021 at 4:34 pm

    5 stars
    This recipe is a keeper! For the ground beef, I used ground angus, which made the meatballs even more luxurious! Of course, I used half ground pork. Love your idea of serving over mashed potatoes mixed with green peas. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Reply
    Kim moore
    December 23, 2020 at 11:23 am

    Hi, could you clarify the cracker crumbs please? Is it 1/2 cup or sleeve? Using townhouse and it’s a big sleeve. Thanks, can’t wait to try them!

    • Reply
      December 23, 2020 at 11:40 am

      Hey Kim ~ go with half cup of crushed crumbs, which is about a sleeve of Ritz, but your crackers will be different.

  • Reply
    September 6, 2020 at 6:17 pm

    5 stars
    Misted w olive oil, placed under broiler to brown, flipped, browned other side, finished at 350 until done, skipping pan searing. 1 Tbl hot sauce. Used 1# grd chix thighs, 1/3 #pork and 1/3 #beef. Made 36 meatballs. These were a great success at our Distancing Derby Party. All gone for party of 6. Small crockpot set on low for service.

    • Reply
      September 7, 2020 at 5:19 am

      Sounds like fun!

    • Reply
      November 18, 2020 at 6:00 am

      What can you use in place if bourbon? I don’t have any alcohol

      • Reply
        November 18, 2020 at 6:17 am

        You can leave it out and add more water. You could also use beef stock.

        • Reply
          November 13, 2021 at 10:09 am

          5 stars
          I used Jack Daniels and everyone loved them.

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