How to Make the Best Bourbon Meatballs Ever!

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

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! ~


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

Bourbon Cocktail Meatballs
Rate this recipe
199 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

craving more bourbon?

Bourbon Banana Butter

Bourbon Banana Butter

Salted Maple Pot de Creme with Bourbon Whipped Cream | overhead shot

Salted Maple Pot de Creme with Bourbon Whipped Cream

Bourbon Meatloaf recipe

Bourbon Glazed Meatloaf

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie recipe |

Black Bottom Bourbon Pecan Pie

You Might Also Like

Leave a Reply


  • Reply
    Jj Ebelhar
    April 16, 2016 at 6:05 am

    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.

    • Reply
      April 16, 2016 at 7:57 am

      I’m not sure what you mean Jj, because you’re on the post right now…but I’ll email it to you.

  • Reply
    November 29, 2015 at 12:25 pm

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

  • Reply
    May 1, 2015 at 11:21 am

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

    • Reply
      May 1, 2015 at 11:43 am

      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.

      • Reply
        August 25, 2016 at 7:30 am

        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.

  • Reply
    April 20, 2015 at 11:21 am

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

    • Reply
      April 20, 2015 at 11:24 am

      I haven’t tried it myself, Jenny, but you certainly could just add the sauce to the pre-made meatballs.

  • Reply
    Our Award Winning Meal | Same Molly, New Media
    February 24, 2015 at 6:29 am

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

  • Reply
    101 Small Plate Ideas to Make at Home |
    February 11, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    […] 25. Bourbon Cocktail Meatballs  […]

  • Reply
    Birthday Feature: Goodbye Roaring 20s {a glitz and glam 30th birthday celebration}
    February 10, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    […] 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 […]

  • Reply
    February 16, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      February 16, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      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!

  • Reply
    January 29, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    I definately have to try these for the Super Bowl Party

  • Reply
    October 9, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    September 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm

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

  • Reply
    September 15, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    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

  • Reply
    Bites from life with the barking lot
    September 15, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    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!

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      September 15, 2012 at 8:48 pm

      I did get a lovely whiff of bourbon as I was setting these out to eat. I couldn’t think of a way to serve these as regular meatballs, but I’m sure there’s a way. Let me know if you try them!

  • Reply
    Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen
    September 15, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    September 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    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!

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      September 15, 2012 at 8:42 pm

      Between us we could corner the meatball market!! I’m so nuts about my mini liquor bottle collection that I hate it when anyone wants to use one up…I want to have as many varieties as possible…I think I have a problem…

  • Reply
    belleau kitchen
    September 14, 2012 at 8:40 pm

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

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      September 14, 2012 at 10:52 pm

      The taste is fruity, sweet, hot and smokey. I forgot to mention that lots of different jams would work, including marmalade, peach, blackberry, etc.

  • Reply
    La Table De Nana
    September 14, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Bet they are good:)

  • Reply
    Averie @ Averie Cooks
    September 14, 2012 at 7:17 pm

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

  • Reply
    September 14, 2012 at 6:11 pm

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

  • Reply
    September 14, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      September 14, 2012 at 10:20 pm

      Too bad about the brownies— at least you saved yourself some calories! I thought of you when I was making these meatballs :)

    1 2 3