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! ~


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
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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

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Leave a Reply


  • Reply
    Ernest Garcia
    January 8, 2017 at 7:04 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
    December 23, 2016 at 1:55 am

    I wish I had seen these meatballs yesterday. I made some and they were good, but your version sounds even better!

  • Reply
    Laura | Tutti Dolci
    December 15, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    That bourbon sauce sounds incredible, Sue! What a crowdpleaser!

    • Reply
      December 15, 2016 at 5:27 pm

      I’ve never met anybody so far who doesn’t go crazy over these :)

      • Reply
        May 4, 2017 at 6:10 pm

        What kind of barbecue sauce do you use? Also, what brand of bourbon?

        Thank you

        • Reply
          May 4, 2017 at 6:30 pm

          As for bourbon, I use what my husband has in the cupboard, and he often buys Bulleit. But honestly any brand will do, I think. And the same sort of goes for barbecue sauce, I get what catches my eye, but I do like Stubbs, and Jack Daniel’s. Usually I like to experiment, so if I see something unusual I go for it.

  • Reply
    December 15, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Great combination of the sauce with the meatballs, Sue! It is on my list for next week!
    Just so to know….why do you cook the meatballs first in the skillet and then in the oven?

    • Reply
      December 15, 2016 at 3:00 pm

      Yes, you brown them first in the skillet, then finish cooking in the oven. Then they go into the sauce.

  • Reply
    Paula | Vintage Kitchen
    December 15, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    Sensational for the holidays! I just love anything with bourbon, anything!

  • Reply
    Chris Scheuer
    December 15, 2016 at 3:16 am

    You’ve definitely got my mouth watering before the sun’s even come up Sue!

  • Reply
    December 15, 2016 at 3:03 am

    Bourbon meatballs?! What?? My husband is gonna die over these. I love that they make so many. I’ll be freezing some for sure. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Reply
    Helen @ Fuss Free Flavours
    December 15, 2016 at 2:42 am

    I wouldn’t have imagined Bourbon with meatballs, but reading this makes me think it must work.

  • Reply
    Igor @ Cooking The Globe
    December 14, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    Ah, meatballs are like the best food ever for me. They are quick & easy to throw together and they never disappoint. I’ve never tried them with bourbon sauce, though, and yours sounds fantastic!

    • Reply
      December 15, 2016 at 10:24 am

      Thanks Igor!

  • Reply
    December 14, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    Wow – these look pretty amazing! I love the addition of bourbon and the hot chili sauce for some heat! YUM!

  • Reply
    Debra C.
    December 14, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    Oh my gosh these look absolutely delicious! What a perfect party treat!

  • Reply
    Matt @ RoughEats
    December 14, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Looks like these would be brilliant in a meatball sandwich!

    • Reply
      December 14, 2016 at 2:42 pm

      Oh my, now you’ve got me racing out to the store to grab a nice chewy hero roll!

  • Reply
    December 14, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    I’m so happy I saw this, they look amazing. We are planning a party sometime just after New Year’s and this would make a great appetizer and not too time consuming to make. I love cooking with wine, brandy, now this, but then I have found so many great recipes from you!

    • Reply
      December 14, 2016 at 2:43 pm

      Thanks Cathy <3 Happy entertaining!

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    December 14, 2016 at 11:05 am

    These appeal to me on so many levels! I could make a meal of them without any trouble. If I get invited out this year or invite others in – I’m making these juicy little bites of yum!

    • Reply
      December 14, 2016 at 2:57 pm

      Juicy Little Bites of Yum ~ might have a catchy new title for this recipe there :)

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Seasons and Suppers
    December 14, 2016 at 8:39 am

    Fabulous! I can just imagine sitting around at night popping one after another of these in to my mouth :) Yum :)

    • Reply
      December 14, 2016 at 9:46 am

      That pretty much sums up what we did ;)

  • Reply
    November 19, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Two questions:

    1. Do you freeze the meatballs before or after baking?

    2. Can I make the sauce ahead and freeze that?

    • Reply
      November 19, 2016 at 11:18 am

      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.

  • Reply
    October 16, 2016 at 5:17 pm

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

    • Reply
      October 16, 2016 at 5:18 pm

      Yes, sure!

  • Reply
    October 11, 2016 at 10:40 am

    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!

    • Reply
      October 11, 2016 at 10:51 am

      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

  • Reply
    August 25, 2016 at 7:27 am

    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.

    • Reply
      August 25, 2016 at 7:40 am

      Haha, that sauce is liquid gold :)

  • Reply
    May 4, 2016 at 7:45 pm

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

    • Reply
      May 4, 2016 at 7:52 pm

      You an use whatever you like, Shannon, I usually have sriracha in my fridge.

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