The Harvey Wallbanger is a fun and simple vodka cocktail that was created in the 1950s. It became a smash hit in the 70s and has seen a recent revival. The roller coaster that has been the Harvey Wallbanger's existence is interesting and the story is as fascinating as the drink is simple.
First, let's talk about the drink itself. The recipe is very simple: mix a Screwdriver and top it with a Galliano float. It's really that easy and you'll love the transformation.
- Pour the vodka and orange juice into a collins glass with ice cubes.
- Layer the Galliano on top by pouring it slowly over the back of a bar spoon.
- Garnish with an orange slice and maraschino cherry.
However easy the recipe is, there are a number of variations out there. You will come across many recipes that do not distinguish the liqueur, recommend a different liqueur, or have various ratios. It really is not as complicated as all that.
To set the record straight, Galliano L'Autentico is the liqueur that makes the proper Harvey Wallbanger.
In 2010, Lucas Bols returned Galliano to its original recipe. This helped catapult the Harvey Wallbanger back onto the cocktail scene. And if you'd like to celebrate it for no real reason other than to have a great drink, choose November 18 as it is National Harvey Wallbanger Day.
Tip: If you switch to tequila, you'll have a Freddie Fuddpucker.
The Story of the Harvey Wallbanger
As with many cocktails, there are a couple of claims to the creation of the Harvey Wallbanger.
One is that it may have been created as one of those "all I got left in the bar" drinks. Supposedly, the host of a party in the mid-60s had only vodka, orange juice, and Galliano available. After a couple of these drinks, a guest named Harvey was found to be banging his head against the wall and cursing the drink that caused him his misery.
That's a fun story, but it's not very believable. The accepted truth attributes the Harvey Wallbanger's creation to Donato "Duke" Antone who owned Duke's Backwatch Bar in Hollywood. It was at this joint on Sunset Boulevard in 1952 that Antone created the cocktail. He named it after a local surfer and bar regular named Tom Harvey.
It was not until the late 1960s that a marketing director for the company importing Galliano 'discovered' the drink. George Bednar created a surfer-themed ad campaign with the tagline " "Harvey Wallbanger is the name and I can be made!" By the time the disco era began, the drink was on everyone's lips.
Of course, the story is more complicated than that and it is not without its faults. There's a very detailed account by Robert Simonson on Saveur: Searching for Harvey Wallbanger.
The 70s may have been the cocktail's glory days, but little gems like the Harvey Wallbanger are unforgettable.
In truth, it's one of the best drinks to come out of the era. Though it was likely created before disco, other drinks of the time did not give the decade a good reputation. Some in the bartending community even call the 70s the "Death Valley of Cocktails."
How Strong is the Harvey Wallbanger?
You can make a few adjustments to the recipe and pour more vodka or less orange juice if you like, though there's a balance to the recipe as written. If you pour according to the recipe, the Harvey Wallbanger has an alcohol content around 12% ABV (24 proof), which makes it about the same strength as a robust wine.