The Life and Cocktails of Donn Beach

15th August 2022

Beach Cocktail

Today I want to talk about one man by the name of Donn Beach, this man is famous in the Cocktail world, during his life he served his country during World War II, he created the Tiki culture and is the mind behind many famous Cocktails.

The Life of Donn Beach

Born Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt on the 22nd of February 1907 in the United States, either in Limestone County, Texas or New Orleans.

He spent his early years with his parents, working his first job with his mother running boarding houses at the age of 16, but Donn was never meant for a life of standing still for too long, so at the age of 20 he left home and started to travel the world.

He went on to open his first bar at the end of prohibition in 1933, calling the place, Don’s Beachcomber, after this and the success he was receiving, he started calling himself Don the Beachcomber, soon after legally changing his name to Donn Beach.

4 years later in 1937, he would move his bar across the steet from 1722 N. McCadden Place to 1727, also expanding it into a restaurant and formally changing it’s name from Don’s Beachcomber to Don The Beachcomber.

During this time he would marry Sunny Sund, who was born with the name Cora Irene Sund, she was a waitress from Minnesota, she helped Donn a lot in helping to grow his bars and restaurants, becoming a partner and manager, they sadly divorced in 1940, but she continued to keep his dream alive while he served during World War II.

Grantt (Donn Beach) was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II, serving from 1942 to 1944, he was awarded a Purple Heart after he was injured during a U-boat attack on a ship. He was also rewarded the Bronze Star for setting up resting camps for exhausted airmen of the 12th and 15th Air Forces.

Tiki restaurants would become very popular during the 1940s and 50s, with Don The Beachcomber reaching its highest with having 16 locations across the United States.

But Donn Beach was not the only man to spread the Tiki culture, a man with the name Victor J. Bergeron would open his own Tiki restaurant at the end of the 1930s, called Trader Vic’s, becoming Donn’s No.1 rival, the biggest conflict would come with a dispute of the Mai Tai Cocktail which Victor Bergeron created, Beach believed that it was rip off of his Q.B. Cooler, Bergeron would go on to win the rights to distribute the commercial Mai Tai mix, allowing people to buy it and use it at home.

The Mai Tai is a Tahitian word, which means ‘Good’.

After the war in 1945, he signed over control of his restaurants to his ex-wife Sunny Sund, he was able to retain a consultant and figurehead role, but he was not allowed to open any new Don the Beachcomber establishments in the United States, some do say that he was forced to sign by the mob, as his Chicago Don the Beachcomber had intertwined with the Mafia.

Donn Beach would be taken from us by liver cancer on the 7th of June 1989 in Honolulu, Hawaii, United States, he was buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

The Cocktails of Donn Beach

As soon as Donn opened his original bar he started mixing Rum Cocktails, referring to it as ‘Rhum Rhapsodies’, during his time in the army, he would come up with some Air Corp themed Cocktail and in one of his establishments, the Cocktail menu featured 60 different original Cocktails.

Donn was also an Ambassador of Rum, he always served Rum at his establishments, including Rum in all of his Cocktails and stored over 120 brands and types of Rum from different countries, which were all available for people to try.

The following impressive list of Cocktails have all been served in one of Donn’s establishments, some of these Cocktails are very popular today and others have sort of been lost to time, but all of the Cocktails in this article are either credited or were claimed to have been first created by the Donn Beach.

Before Sundown

  • Beachcomber’s Punch
  • Beachcomber’s Rum Barrel (More known as the ‘Rum Barrel’ now)
  • Caribbean Punch
  • Coconut Rum
  • Don Beach
  • Don’s Own Planters
  • Dr. Funk
  • Governer General
  • Mona Punch
  • Nui Nui

  • Penang Afrididi No.1
  • Planter’s Rum Punch
  • Q.B. Coller
  • Rum Julep
  • Sugar Loaf Punch
  • Sumatra Kula
  • Sunakora
  • Test Pilot
  • West Indian Punch
  • Zombie (First Created in 1934)


  • Beachcomber’s Gold
  • Beachcomber’s Silver
  • Cuban Daiquiri
  • Colonial Grog
  • Demerara Cocktail
  • Demerara Dry Float
  • Donga Punch
  • Don’s Pearl
  • Don’s Reserve Rum Daiquiri
  • General Pico

  • Martinique Cocktail
  • Montego Bay
  • Never Say Die
  • Panama Daiquiri
  • Penang Afrididi No.2
  • Queen’s Road Cocktail
  • Rum, Gum & Lime
  • Shark’s Tooth
  • Three Dots and a Dash
  • Vicious Virgin


  • Barbados Punch
  • Barbados Swizzle
  • Beachcomber’s Sangaree
  • Cobra’s Fang
  • Hot Buttered Rum
  • Hot Rum Grog
  • 151 Swizzle
  • Kona Coffee Grog
  • Martinique Milk Punch
  • Missionary’s Downfall

Sparkling Pirate Cocktail

  • Myrtle Bank Punch
  • Mystery Gardenia
  • Navy Grog
  • Nelson’s Blood
  • Pearl Diver
  • Pi Yi
  • Puka Punch
  • Rum Cow
  • Skull & Bones
  • Tahitian Rum Punch


Extra Secret Recipe

You can check out one of Donn’s original menu’s which consumers would have been greeted with, it’s got engaging pictures, prices and even a Cocktail that states next to it ‘Don will not serve more than 2 to each person’. Don The Beachcomber’s Menu.


Information Credit: Donn Beach

Image Credit: Beach BarBeach CocktailZombie CocktailTropical BeachAmerican Air Force

Oliver Walkey

Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.