What Does Q.B Mean?
If you are a former Air Force, you probably already know the answer to this, but the Q.B. in the Q.B. Cooler stands for Quiet Birdmen. Donn Beach served in the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) from 1942 to 1945. The Quite Birdmen is an invite-only club of former military aviators formed at the end of WWI in France. Originally a drinking club named The American Flying Club, they eventually earned the name Quite Birdmen as a joke since they were often loud and drunk. As a former Lieutenant Colonel of the Army Air Forces, it seems fitting to name a drink after the Air Forces drinking club. (Originally, aerial warfare was a part of the Army as the Army Air Corps till 1941, then Army Air Forces in 1942, It wouldn’t become a separate branch till 1947 when the US Air Force was formed)
Did The Q.B Cooler Inspire the Mai Tai?
There is a typical story that Donn Beach’s Q.B. Cooler inspired Victor Bergeron (Trader Vic) and made the Mai Tai in an attempt to imitate it. But I don’t buy that. 1). The Mai Tai and Q.B. Cooler are almost entirely different drinks. It doesn’t help that there are countless recipes for the two, but the more or less agreed-upon canon recipes are very different from each other. If Victor Bergeron was trying to copy the Q.B. Cooler, he completely missed the mark. 2). Victor Bergeron did not hide when Donn Beach inspired him. He was public about how Don the Beachcomber inspired him to open a tiki bar. Also, he cited the cocktails he did try and mimic from Donn as cocktails inspired by and originally from Don the Beachcomber. Why would he suddenly act differently with this one drink? 3). I gather this story was started by a bartender of Donn’s and not Donn himself. Donn did not hide his frustration with others trying to copy his work, and he did not sue Victor Bergeron for copying his Q.B Cooler. Victor sued him. This leads to my final point. 4). Victor Bergeron and Donn Beach went to court to argue who’s Mai Tai was the original. Victor sold a pre-made “Original” Mai Tai mixer, and in the 1970s, Donn Beach began selling a pre-made “Original” Mai Tai mixer. The two went to court to argue who invented the original. Victor Bergeron won, and Donn removed “Original” from the label. I believe if Victor Bergeron tried to copy the Q.B. Cooler, he would have just made a drink called the Q.B Cooler and credited Donn Beach with having invented it.