This is not a new topic…but If there´s a drink that fascinates me its this one, tthe QB Cooler and the reason is as many of you can guess – it tastes much like a Trader Vic´s Mai Tai – but does only have two ingredients in common, rum and lime and not even the same rums either – or proportions. Of course it doesn´t taste exactly like a Mai Tai but actually close enough to be a mystery to many.

And not only is the drink tasty and tastes like Mai Tai it also has an interesting story that dates back to the time of the Mai Tai war between Donn the Beachcomber and Trader Vic, a topic that has been discussed for over half a century now and will probably never stop being discussed..

In ca 1937 Donn the Beachcomber created the Q.B. Cooler and it is said – that Trader Vic took that recipe and reformulated it to what we know as the Trader Vic´s Mai Tai – but there`s is no proof of that though – and it is also said that it was Donn who created the Mai Tai…and also that Trader Vic created the Mai Tai… and actually both did – just not the same Mai Tai..

Donn Beach Mai Tai is entirely different from Vic`s and to me and most others, what is the real Mai Tai – is Trader Vic`s and it`s also the one that made commercial success and became a living legend. It simply is THE Mai Tai and it has a perfect balance and layers of flavors.

That said, just because Vic has won the Mai Tai war doesn´t mean Donn Beach wasn`t an awesome bartender – he was! he was Mr awesome! – and so was Vic.

Whether or not Trader Vic`s Mai Tai evolved from Donn`s Q.B.Cooler or not and which really is just speculations is really not important but nevertheless its a fascinating topic and i guess since we really never will know for sure the Mai Tai conflict will never end.

In any case what puzzles me is how these two drinks can taste so similar, even though we can see the flavor profile goes towards dark rums, lime and orange. But there`s no falernum or ginger syrup in the Mai Tai.

And i haven´t gotten to the rums yet – we know that the Mai Tai originally contained one rum, the 17 yo Wray & Nephew and later on a blend of Jamaican and Martinique rum while the Q.B. Cooler contains Jamaican and light Puerto Rican rum. And still they manage to taste quite similar.

Isn`t it fascinating? anyway, even though very close, the Mai Tai is more intense in my opinion. So go get your shakers and mix up these two drinks and taste them side by side, you´ll be surprised.

Hopefully pleasantly so..and its never wrong to have two awesomely tasty drinks on hand..

The recipe for the Mai Tai is once again as follows:


1 oz Dark Jamaican Rum
1 oz Martinique Rhum
1 oz Lime Juice
0.5 oz Orange Curacao
0.25 oz Simple Syrup
0.25 oz Orgeat

Shake with crushed ice, pour into a double old fashioned, garnish with a mint sprig



1 oz fresh orange juice
1 oz  club soda
1 oz Jamaican rum
1 oz light Puerto Rican rum
0.5  oz fresh lime juice
0.5 oz honey mix (equal parts honey/water)
0.5 oz Demerara rum
0.25 oz  Falernum
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1/2 teaspoon ginger syrup

Blend with 4 ounces crushed ice for 5 seconds; top up with more crushed ice and garnish with mint (Julep style)

I really enjoy this drink, here´s a range and depth of flavors that we can thank the cocktail-genius Donn Beach for. a

Do you think these two drinks tastes the same?


  1. For years I’ve been intrigued by the challenge of finding the best substitute for the Wray & Nephew 17-years. Or a blend of rums that could emulate it as well as possible. Today I’ve tried the 17 years old Plantation Jamaican Clarendon Wedderburn (MMW) from 2003, and I would bet it comes very close to the original Wray & Nephew! However, the Mai Tai I obtained using this, and no other rum, was good, but I can’t say it’s one of my favourite cocktails. Most of all it tastes of old rum and of orgeat. I find it comparable to the “three dots and a dash”, which is also prepared with expensive, aged rum (in this case with rhum agricole). I don’t find it that similar to the Q.B. Cooler, which I find really delicious. Granted, I also used aged rum to mix this; but only 0.5 oz of El Dorado 12-year. The rest was 1 oz Myers’s dark Jamaican and 1 oz white Bacardi.

  2. This isn’t as big a deal as we make it out to be. The truth is Donn signed a contract to bottle cocktail mixes the included the Zombie and the Mai Tai. That Mai Tai mix caused a law suit by Vic. Of course Donn fought and wanted to keep getting paid. So he created his story and lost in court. It had
    Little to do with a dues or real creation of the drink and was just business.

  3. Thanks for your comment JB!

    The QB is one of the better drinks…i will always be amazed at how close to the Mai Tai it is in flavor despite quite diff ingredients.

    Sounds like your take with 1 tsp ginger syrup is very tasty! i like ginger a lot.

    Also high five for “Mai Tai 4 days a week”…:-)) of course we all should drink responsably and 4 days a week sounds like an addiciton to me but a good one…:-) as long as YOU are the master of the addiction and not the other way…

  4. Old post, I know. But I’m compelled to weigh in on two of my favorite cocktails. I know the history and I can understand how someone used to whisk(e)y drinks and traditional cocktails could have had a QB and then a Mai Tai a month later and say they are similar. In my house (i’m ashamed to say wife and i might each have a Mai Tai 4 days a week!) the QB is quite a departure. I have really been craving them recently and like the orange, ginger, and honey. My wife (who adores her Mai Tai, and likes “Long” iced drinks in general) does not like honey and will reject the QB at first sip.

    The first time i tried a QB i felt like a chemist reading the ingredients carefully measuring everything out. I though it was laborious. Now with some practice , it doesn’t take any more time than making a good mai tai (with an efficient measuring cup, well laid out liquor cabinet, and hot- water-thinned-honey. A bottle of ginger syrup lasts forever a teaspoon at a time (yes, i use a full tsp).

    Bottom line: I’ve mixed the “grog log” methodically over the last few years like everyone else. The vast majority you enjoy once; in the name of science. Very few become staples to offer guests along with margaritas, old-fashionds, mai tais, and sazeracs. I may be in the minority but the QB is in my repertoire. I can make this as naturally as i can whistle “My Favorite Things”.

    I’ve loved your site for years, and you’ve taught me quite a bit!

  5. Thanks for the headsup PJ…i have posted a comment and asked them to either take it down or give me credit but i have not only posted that comment on their website..

  6. This is the reason why i posted about this cocktail – the exercise in doing something to learn the phenomenon, i have done it before but i want to share it so those who haven`t tried can do that. I`m quite fascinated how similar they taste but like you said, the Mai Tai is the king and me too prefer to make the Mai Tai;-)

  7. Well T, you got me to try it!
    You’re right, it tastes more like a Mai Tai than anything with such different ingredients has any right to.
    But I gotta say its probably an exercise in doing something to learn the phenomenon more than something I’m going make regularly. I just don’t think it is quite as good, and it is way more of pain to make than the Superweapon, so why make the harder, less complete drink? (Especially when I’m down to my last few ounces of demerara!)

    That said, any excuse to talk about Don and Vic is a great excuse, so I’ll probably have to do a copycat post on it shortly myself. (Tiki Month work is never done!)

  8. The War of Refreshment. 😉 And as we all keep talking, I hope we all keep smiling too. The Mai Tai makes me smile every time without fail.

    And Tony, I agree with Tiare – try one soon!

  9. Tony, you right! you need to try one;-)

    Jack, you are right too, nobody has actually won the Mai Tai war..;-D when i wrote that it was really in the context of the fact that Vic is the one who got the drink to become a commercial success and a living legend. Personally i prefer Vic`s and to me that`s the one that is THE “Mai Tai” but i do like both.

    The fun thing about the Mai Tai war is that the discussion will continue..and continue..and keep us poor peeps busy..;-D

  10. To me it is not a given – Trader Vic (to me) did not win the Mai Tai war. I am on Don the Beachbomber’s side. But I also understand it is merely my opinion, and my preference. I think it simply tastes better. The two say they invented it, many have studied and argued. And to this date I do not think there is any definitive answer to the authenticity, no matter how forcefully either declared themselves the origin of the drink. However, I agree with the similarity the QB Cooler and Trader Vic’s Mai Tai. Both are yummy drinks, and both what I will drink many many times in the future.

  11. I’ve wanted to try the Q.B. Cooler for so long…it’s on my “to do” drink list. That photo is making me bump it up near the top! 😉

  12. Hi Nando, if its the Mai Tai you mean, the original recipe does have 1 oz dark rum and its not a float.The very first original recipe by Vic had one rum, the 17 year Wray & nephew and it was not added as float either..

    That said, i´m not against a float of dark rum in my Mai Tai`s sometimes, i like to add a float of overproof demerara.

  13. HI Tiare,
    very nice post! I didn’t know this history about the Mai TAi but it intrigue me enough. By the way the “IBA” has a similar recipe, except for the dark rum which is add as a floating ingredient.

    Bye Bye

  14. Hahaha yeah! to me it tastes quite like a Mai Tai even though not entirely, it lacks the “completeness” that the Mai Tai have..and the MT is fuller, more intense..anyway, tasty it sure is!

  15. Great post and a great topic. I really love the Donn and Vic history with the QB Cooler and the Mai Tai, and I also love the Quiet Birdman aviator part of that history as well.

    That said, when I get the urge and mix up a QB Cooler every once in a blue moon, the result is always a tasty drink that only vaguely says Mai tai to my taste buds. I guess that means it’s time to spin this one up again and see if my tastebuds have learned anything since last time.

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