4.91 from 11 votes

Cocktail Meatballs with Bourbon and Jelly Preserves

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our read the Privacy Policy

Cocktail Meatballs with Bourbon and preserves are a perfect appetizer to bring some sweet heat to your party. Easy to make homemade or substitute with frozen, these meatballs will be gone from your tray in minutes with people begging for seconds.

Tested over and over again, this cocktail meatball recipe makes the grade.

Cocktail Meatballs with Bourbon and Jelly Preserves

How to make Meatballs

Changes are you are making these meatballs for a party and specifically for an appetizer. I know that it can be overwhelming to cook for a lot of people but aside from these meatballs you can easily provide some other awesome snacks.

To get get started, you first need your meatball ingredients!

Scroll to the bottom for a printable version of this post, including all measurements and instructions, so you can follow along in your kitchen without being on your phone.

Here is what ingredients you need to gather to get started:

  • oil
  • beef
  • red onions
  • bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 egg (OTPIONAL)

RELATED APPETIZERS: Bacon Wrapped Potatoes, Caprese Lady BugsBacon Wrapped Pickles, Stuffed Jalapenos, Bean Dip with Cream Cheese, Cucumber Dip (this is a highly rated dip here that is made FOR cucumbers- or any veggie), Chicken Enchilada Dip, Mango Avocado Salsa, Spinach Artichoke Dip

Cooking Tips:

  1. If you use more of an extra lean ground beef or even a ground sirloin, you will have less grease to drain.
  2.  Use Lipton Onion Packet within your beef mixture for extra flavor

Sweet Meatball Sauce

You will love this meatball sauce because its not too spice nor is it too sweet.

The perfect blend to make everyone at your party say MORE PLEASE! Instead of making jelly meatballs, the combined flavors of the sauce and preserves as a perfect balance.

If you have kids that do not like the taste of bourbon, I have included substitutions below.

Scroll to the bottom for a printable version of this post, including all measurements and instructions, so you can follow along in your kitchen without being on your phone.

Here is what ingredients you need to gather to get started:

  • peach preserves
  • orange marmalade
  • barbecue sauce
  • whiskey or bourbon
  • brown sugar
  • molasses
  • hot sauce

meatball ingredients

Variations for Kid Friendly Meatball Sauce

A lot of times, kids do not love the flavors of Bourbon sauce. Therefore a quick substitute for this recipe is to follow as directed, but substitute the 1/2 cup of alcohol for ORANGE JUICE and the 1 tablespoon of molasses for HONEY.

This is the version I show in the recipe video here. 

Cocktail Meatballs Recipe

This takes about 20-30 minutes to make to do it homemade.

Place 2 tablespoons oil into a skillet and heat until hot.

Mix ground beef, onions, and bread crumbs together.

Season with salt and pepper.

Now Mix! I find the best way to mix it all evenly is with your hands!

Use a 1 tablespoon portion scoop to scoop the meat into balls or use your hands and roll into a ball.

make a meatball with a 1 tablespoon scoop for perfectly proportioned meatballs

Place meatballs into hot oil and cook, rotating evenly until all sides are browned, about 8-10 minutes.

Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.

Drain pan of grease before making sauce. 

cooking meatballs in cast iron pan

cooking appetizer meatballs

Bourbon Meatball Sauce

Add peach and orange preserves to pan, barbecue sauce, whiskey, brown sugar, molasses and splash of hot sauce.

I also have a child friendly version of this sauce above with substitutions if you do not like cooking with alcohol. 

Many people prefer grape jelly and that is fine too, but personally I like to use preserves. 

Mix all sauce ingredients together well.

Heat over medium heat and continue to cook as it bubbles and boils.

how to make sweet jelly sauce for meatballs

Cook for 3-5 minutes or until liquid is reduced.

Reduce heat to low and return meatballs to pan.

Cocktail Meatball recipe with jelly

Stir well to evenly coat with sauce and heat on medium low until hot.


Makes about 2 dozen meatballs.

bourbon meatballs

Tip: Little Smokies also go well with this sauce if you want to add to your appetizer tray!

meatball recipe on appetizer tray

Can you use Frozen Meatballs?


Frozen meatballs are fine and quicker.

I personally prefer things homemade but when you have a party, sometimes you are limited on how much time you can balance in the kitchen.

Heat your frozen meatballs through or thaw and then add them to the sauce to coat.

Make sure you use PLAIN meatballs, not Italian seasoned! 

Print Cocktail Meatball Recipe below:

If you make these meatballs, I’d love your feedback!

Please come back and rate this recipe and leave me your own personal changes and suggestions.

You can also always tag me with #SaltySideDish so I can see the recipes on your table!

4.91 from 11 votes

Bourbon Meatballs (Cocktail finger food)

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Cocktail Meatballs with Bourbon and jelly preserves are a perfect appetizer to bring some sweet heat to your party. Easy to make homemade or substitute with frozen, these meatballs will be gone from your tray in minutes with people begging for seconds.


  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/4 cup diced red onions
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper


  • 1/2 cup peach preserves
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1/2 cup whiskey or bourbon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • splash of hot sauce


To Make Meatballs:

  • Heat the Pan: Place 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet and heat until hot.
  • Mix Ingredients: In a bowl, combine 1 lb of ground beef, 1/4 cup diced red onions, and 1/4 cup bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Tip: Mixing with your hands gets the best results!
  • Form Meatballs: Use a tablespoon or your hands to shape the mixture into balls.
  • Cook Meatballs: Add meatballs to the hot oil in the skillet. Cook, turning them to brown all sides evenly, for about 8-10 minutes.
  • Drain: Remove the meatballs and let them drain on a paper towel. Then, remove excess grease from the pan.

For the Sauce:

  • Combine Sauce Ingredients: In the same pan, add 1/2 cup peach preserves, 1/2 cup orange marmalade, 1/2 cup barbecue sauce, 1/2 cup whiskey or bourbon, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon molasses, and a splash of hot sauce. Stir well.
  • Cook Sauce: Heat over medium heat until the mixture starts to bubble and boil. Let it cook for 3-5 minutes until the sauce reduces slightly.
  • Add Meatballs to Sauce: Lower the heat to medium-low, return the meatballs to the pan, and use tongs to coat them evenly in the sauce. Heat until the meatballs are hot throughout.
  • Serve: Serve the meatballs hot, ideally with toothpicks for easy sharing. This recipe makes about 24 meatballs.

Child-Friendly Variation:

  • For a version without alcohol that's a bit sweeter and more kid-friendly, substitute the 1/2 cup of whiskey or bourbon with orange juice and the 1 tablespoon of molasses with honey.



NOTE ON THE EGG: In my original recipe, you will note there is an egg in the image. That is because I had used an egg and breadcrumbs to bind the meatball, but in later renditions (see video) decided to leave that out. If you were taught to use an egg to help mold meatballs, you can still move forward with that - or you can leave it out. Its really a preference thing.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 323kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 40mg | Sodium: 290mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 29g

Nutritional Disclaimer: The nutritional data provided here is auto-calculated and intended for your convenience only. As it’s generated via automation, its accuracy may be compromised. For precise nutritional insight, please compute the values utilizing the actual ingredients in your recipe through your chosen nutrition calculator or application.

Sharing of this recipe is encouraged and appreciated. Copying of full recipe to any social media is prohibited.

Did You Make This Recipe?

Make sure to follow Salty Side Dish on Pinterest and rate the recipe here and make sure to leave a comment below!

4.91 from 11 votes

Leave A Comment

Have a question or want to provide feedback? Share your recipe reviews or questions here and I will do my best to help!

Recipe Rating


  1. the whole family enjoyed these! i made them along with some potatoes and greens, perfect!

  2. Would pure maple syrup work for this instead of molasses?

    1. Hi Elaine. Molasses is part of the syrup process- you should be able to substitute maple syrup in a 1 to 1 ratio in the recipe, it just may be a bit sweeter ( like honey)

  3. Pat Giesler says:

    I want to try these but in the picture where it shows the beef,onion and bread crumbs it also shows an egg but nowhere in the recipe does it have an egg. Is it supposed to be there?

    1. Pat, you are right. That is because when I originally made them, I used an egg to combine my meatballs (as my mom used to do) but in future versions, I removed an egg and just simply did the onions, meat and breadcrumbs because I prefer it. An egg is just a binder for the meat and breadcrumbs and doenst affect the recipe flavor. You can either use it when you do your meatball mix OR leave it out. I just havent removed the image after I updated my article, so I realize that could present as a bit of a confusion. Ill update the post with some text to let people know – if you watch the video you will see I left the egg out.


Where To Next?