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Retro Tiki: Mai Tai & Pineapple Glazed Ham Balls

Retro Tiki: Mai Tai & Pineapple Glazed Ham Balls
Home » Holidays & Celebrations » July 4th » Retro Tiki: Mai Tai & Pineapple Glazed Ham Balls

Waikiki Ham Balls (with a pineapple glaze) was a popular appetizer in the 60’s tiki scene, and the recipes below feature a retro ham ball recipe, as well as a retro tiki Mai Tai, complete with umbrella.  I have to admit, I was leery of the idea of “ham balls”, but surprise, surprise.  They were actually great (I did upgrade them a bit however).

Jump to Ham Ball Recipe
Meatball appetizers for tiki party.
Meatball appetizers for tiki party.

A (little) Bit on Tiki Culture:

The Men behind Tiki:

Ernest Beaumont-Gantt (who later changed his name to Donn Beach), had spent some time traveling the South Pacific and in 1934 decided to create a bar and restaurant in Hollywood that featured some of the exotic scenes he enjoyed on his travels.  

The “Don the Beachcomber” bar was full of Polynesian kitsch, including flaming torches, rattan furniture and flower leis and his drink menu focused on “exotic” rum punches.

Retro tiki bar serving tiki mai tai.
Retro tiki bar serving tiki mai tai

Don the Beachcomber is usually given credit for bringing the tropical drink genre to popularity.  Most of his signature drinks included rum, flavored syrups, fresh fruit juices, and the ubiquitous umbrella.  

Howard Hughes and many of the hollywood stars hung out at Don the Beachcombers from the 40’s to the 60’s.  It was quite the place to be seen as I understand it.

Another man, Victor Bergeron, so liked Donn’s Polynesian themed ideas and therefore opened his own tiki restaurant (Trader Vics) in Oakland three years later.  Trader Vics was wildly popular in the Bay Area and eventually became a worldwide chain.

The Feud around the Mai Tai

Of course the popularity of these two similarly themed restaurants resulted in a feud.  Apparently it was a long drawn-out feud centered around exactly “who” invented the Mai tai.  

The Mai tai is considered to be the quintessential tiki cocktail and bragging rights were an important business draw.  I can’t verify which was the true inventor, but I’m going to side with Don the Beachcomber.  You’ve go to give credit to a guy who actually changed his name to fit his passion!

Revival of the Tiki Culture

It wasn’t until I decided to do a retro tiki mai tai for Throwback Thursday, that I realized there is a revival of the Tiki culture.  Tiki-themed parties and events have sprung up all across America (but mostly Southern California).  

Large annual Tiki events take place every year in California, Florida and New York.  There are even a range of online communities for “tikiphiles”, one of the biggest which is Tiki Central message boards.   Who knew?

Here’s our rendition of a retro tiki cocktail on the porch (caveat: it’s corny):

How to make the Perfect Mai Tai
Watch this video on YouTube.
Watch the Step by Step Video for More Details

Recipe for the “Original” Tiki Mai Tai

A mai tai cocktail in a retro tiki glass.
A mai tai cocktail in a retro tiki glass.


  • 2 oz. aged rum
  • 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice, juiced lime half reserved
  • 1/2 ounce orange curaçao
  • 1/4 ounce rock candy syrup
  • 1/4 ounce orgeat syrup
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 1 mint sprig, for garnish


  1. Fill a rocks glass with 1 cup crushed ice. Set aside in the freezer.
  2. Combine rum, lime juice, orange Curacao, rock candy syrup, and Orgeat in a cocktail shaker. Add 1 cup ice, cover and shake until chilled. Strain into the chilled rocks glass.
  3. Garnish with half of the lime shell inside the drink and float a sprig of fresh mint on the edge of the glass.

Recipe for a Modern Mai Tai:

Ingredients for a retro tiki mai tai
Ingredients for a retro tiki mai tai

The original Mai tai drink recipe has been tweeked throughout the years, resulting in what most think of as a very sweet rum drink with pineapple juice.  I have tweeked it again and removed some of the sweetness and added more lime flavor.

  • 1 oz. Meyers rum (dark rum)
  • 1 oz. light rum (I used Cruzan)
  • 1 oz. coconut water
  • 1 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1 1/2 oz.  ginger lime syrup   (you can use any other simple syrup here)
  • 1 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice (or 2 lime wedges squeezed into shaker)
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • 3 drops orange blossom water (or orgeat syrup)
  • stick of sugar cane or lime wedges for garnish


Combine all ingredients except garnishes in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake vigorously, and strain the entire contents into a tall glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with the sugar cane stick (and umbrella) or with pineapple slices or lime wedges.

Modern Mai Tai

Pineapple Glazed Ham Balls

These retro appetizers were a classic party fare in the 50’s. That made me wonder if they tasted processed and overly sweet. I was pleasantly surprised to find that these glazed ham balls were actually wonderful and should be brought back into fashion!

Basically ham balls are meatballs, made with ham and ground pork. They are then drizzed (or slathered) with a sweet and sour glaze of pineapple juice, brown sugar, ketchup, mustard, and vinegar.

They are perfect fare for football season, holiday appetizers, or of course your own tiki party!

Pineapple Glazed Ham Balls

Meatball appetizers for tiki party.
This is a retro recipe that was popular in the 50’s. It was surprisingly tasty and would be great at a tiki party
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 15 mins
Servings 10
Calories 363



For the Meatballs

  • 1 ½ lb. ham chopped into cubes
  • ¾ lb. ground pork
  • cup onion minced
  • 1 cup panko
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ tsp ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • ¼ tsp pepper

For the Glaze

  • 1 cup crushed pineapple
  • cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp dry mustard
  • ¼ cup lime jelly
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp corn starch mixed with 2 Tbsp cold water


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
    Process ham and ground pork in a food processor over low speed until coarsely ground (do not puree). Place meat mixture in large bowl with the rest of the meatball ingredients and mix well with hands or sturdy spoon to combine.
  • Use hands to form meatballs approximately 2-inches in diameter.
    Arrange meatballs in baking dish and place in the oven without glaze for 20 minutes
  • While the meatballs are cooking make the glaze by mixing all of the glaze ingredients except the corn starch in a small pot over a medium-high burner.
    Bring to a boil. Whisk in the corn starch/water solution and simmer at a low boil 1-2 minutes.
  • Pour the glaze over the meatballs, coating them well. Continue to cook at 350, basting with the glaze every 20 minutes.
    Meatballs should be done after 1 hour total cooking time. If you want to test internal temperature it should read around 165 degrees.


**Note: This recipe would be easy to adapt to a crockpot for party appetizers.  If you want to get really retro, serve each meatball inside of a pineapple ring.


Calories: 363kcalCarbohydrates: 20gProtein: 23gFat: 21gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 101mgSodium: 889mgPotassium: 380mgFiber: 1gSugar: 14gVitamin A: 84IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 40mgIron: 2mg
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