The Harvey Wallbanger, once a favorite in the '70s, is a cocktail made with vodka, citrus juice, and Galliano liqueur. Wallbanger was a variation on the Screwdriver (vodka mixed with orange juice served over ice), but newer drinks such as Tom Collins and even the Blood & Sand overshadowed it. It had a brief resurgence of popularity in the '80s. However, it fell out of fashion quickly with hardly any news about it since. So why are we still holding to this name? Well, this article will take you back through history as it tries to identify the origin of this drink's name, and more importantly, a little history about this famous cocktail.
The Harvey Wallbanger Origin
It begins in post-World War II America, where returning service members had become accustomed to tangy and refreshing drinks made with vodka and fruit juice. The Screwdriver's most popular variation – a combination of orange juice and vodka served over ice and garnished with an orange slice. The Screwdriver was the drink of choice at Trader Vic's, a favorite hang-out of Hollywood stars Cary Grant and Errol Flynn. Trader Vic's was known for its exotic drinks made with fresh juices and plenty of fruit garnishes. The "tropical" drinks were popular, and the bar became known. The story goes that the Harvey Wallbanger was named after a surfer in Manhattan Beach, California. The surfer's favorite drink was a screwdriver with a dash of Galliano, and as such, he made a habit of getting the drink after every surfing session. One day, after winning a surfing competition, Harvey moved from bar to bar, drinking while banging his surfboard to the walls. It was then that the contemporary cocktail got its name. Another story goes that the drink was created by bartender Donato "Duke" Antone at his Blackwatch bar in Los Angeles for Tom Harvey, a surfer who got too drunk from the liquor and started running into walls. Since then, the drink was associated with Harvey and was renamed after him. To be sure, there are plenty of other stories which describe how Duke Antone finally settled on the Harvey Wallbanger name. But, whichever story you choose to believe, Duke Antone's Blackwatch bar in Los Angeles was undoubtedly the birthplace of the Harvey Wallbanger cocktail. A piece of literature from the Hartford Courant published on 3rd September 1997 gave credit to Donato 'Duke' Antone as the creator of the Harvey Wallbanger, amongst other drinks popular in the nation. There is no other better evidence than this to confirm his role.
Marketing the Harvey Wallbanger
In late 1969, George Bednar, the head salesman for McKesson Imports of New York City, looked for a drink to sell to bars. He had already distributed the famous Screwdriver and was looking for something new. The current market leader was Tom Collins, so Bedar decided to create a variation with Galliano and orange juice that would compete with it. Then, he came across the Wallbanger, a drink named after a surfer. Bednar created a promotional campaign to promote the drink to ensure the product's success. It was then when a surfer mascot wearing sandals called Harvey Wallbanger emerged. He came up with the name because it was catchy, it rhymed with a trendy cocktail, and it gave customers the idea that if they drank too much, they might start banging their heads against the wall. In this period, Bednar also coined the phrase "Harvey Wallbanger is the name, and I can be made!" used popularly on bottles and advertising campaigns during the drink's golden period. Bednar's campaign reached its peak in 1970 when the Harvey Wallbanger became the best-selling cocktail in the United States. The drink was also popular in other countries, where it became a signature drink for bars and nightclubs. The popularity of the cocktail and its name can be attributed to Antone's contribution to the success of this famous drink.
The Harvey Wallbanger: A Drink from the Past
With the resurgence of interest in cocktails in the 1980s and the flavor explosion on the palate that vodka adds, the Harvey Wallbanger made a big comeback. It ranked among the most popular drinks in America during this time. It was served frozen, garnished with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry. Unfortunately, the drink didn't fare as well during the next decade's following the rise of interest in wine and craft beer, so it quickly dropped out of popularity once again. However, the Harvey Wallbanger has had some minor revivals in recent times. The drink is a classic loved by many but won't seem to die.
The Original Recipe
The recipe used to make the Harvey Wallbanger was simple. It consisted of one-part vodka, two parts orange juice, and two parts Galliano. There were several methods of mixing the infamous drink, but the manufacturers were only responsible for the consistency. It was expected of the bartender to develop the perfect blend of flavors and techniques that would satisfy their customers, especially if they were thirsty for that famous cocktail.
Structure of the Harvey Wallbanger
You can simplify the structure of the Harvey Wallbanger into three stages of interaction between ingredients: preparation, maturation, and dilution. Preparation refers to introducing ice and squeezing orange juice into a cocktail shaker prior to mixing. Maturation follows where you mix the cocktail before dilution takes place. Finally, dilution is mixing the ingredients after combining them to achieve the desired sweetness and taste. The original recipe for making a Harvey Wallbanger called for one part vodka, two parts orange juice, and two parts Galliano, which resulted in a cocktail with a total volume of 10 ounces. The recommended ratio of ice was six cubes per drink. The Harvey Wallbanger is a drink that has been perceived differently throughout time, but it remains a popular drink known today. This famous cocktail can be found in various parts of America and overseas.
The cocktail craze of the 1970s left an enduring legacy on the liquor industry and fueled the start of new trends in cocktail culture. Not only did it create the famous Screwdriver, but it also led to the creation of the Wallbanger and helped popularize new concepts such as the Beefeater Martini and the Hurricane. If your business attracts customers from a demographic interested in unique drinks, you might want to consider tapping into Harvey Wallbanger's continuing popularity. If you're looking for an unusual drink to serve during happy hour, don't be afraid of trying this classic drink with a twist.
Written by Lily Wordsmith
Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith