The Harvey Wallbanger is another tall, classic vodka based cocktail. It consists solely of vodka, orange juice and Galliano – a vanilla flavoured liqueur with an iconic bottle design. As such some people like to classify it as being a variant on a Screwdriver. This does make a certain amount of sense as it is effectively just a Screwdriver with the addition of Galliano. But it also doesn’t, as the Screwdriver is so simple a cocktail as to barely deserve the name. So coming up with a variant on it is not exactly a great feat of mixology.
It also has many similarities to a Sea Breeze. Partly because it too is a simple, tall vodka and juice type cocktail. But also partly because it too is something of a quasi “signature cocktail”. Spirit companies often do this. Create and market cocktails based on their products to boost sales. The Moscow Mule is the quintessential signature cocktail as it practically invented the idea.
But it is a little tough for companies to simultaneously market a product as both a healthy drink and a cocktail ingredient. It is thought that Ocean Spray created the Sea Breeze during the 1960s to market their cranberry juice. But then got others to market and popularize it. Making it a quasi-signature cocktail.
It is likely that the Harvey Wallbanger was created and popularized by Galliano in a similar manner. Though this is just an opinion.
Either way, the Harvey Wallbanger remains a tall and fruity cocktail. A little sweeter than the Screwdriver or Sea Breeze.
The Harvey Wallbanger Myth
There is an urban legend associated with the Harvey Wallbanger which just *might* be true. Though it is far more likely made up. A cool story to help popularize the drink.
According to the story, Harvey was a Californian surfer who screwed up at a surfing tournament. He went down to his usual bar to drown his sorrows and ordered his usual Screwdriver. But then he decided that this wasn’t strong enough for the night he had in mind. Scanning the bar for something to enhance his drink, the distinctively shaped Galliano bottle caught his eye. A shot of this was then added as a float.
Unfortunately Harvey was not the type of man who can drown his sorrows in alcohol. Instead alcohol helped him drown in his sorrows. And after several of this new concoction he started banging his head against the wall. And so…the Harvey Wallbanger.
Do I believe that the Harvey Wallbanger was created in this way?
A Myth Debunked
There are a lot of problems with this story.
First off, there is a complete and total lack of evidence. Though the cocktail is named for the surfer, the myth also makes more significant claims. That it was created in 1952 in the Blackwatch Bar in Los Angeles by the three time world champion mixologist Donato “Duke” Antone.
The problem is that there is no record of a Blackwatch Bar in Los Angeles existing at the time. Also, Duke apparently lived on the East Coast and not the West Coast at the time. Nor is the surfer in question known to history.
Also, there seems to be no mention of the Harvey Wallbanger in cocktail books or other media until 1971. Meaning it was likely created a short time prior to that, but cited as being an old classic to enhance its appeal.
Still…it’s a good story with just the right ring of truth to it, and became widely believed. And it helped propel the Harvey Wallbanger into becoming one of the most popular cocktails of the 1970’s.
So if it was a marketing scheme dreamed up by the folks at Galliano, then hat’s off to them! It helped to sell a hell of a lot of Galliano. So much so that Galliano was the most popular foreign liqueur imported into the US during the 1970’s.
After all that, making one is a doddle.
The Harvey Wallbanger is built in a tall glass such as a highball. Pour in a couple of shots of vodka, top it up with orange juice and give it a quick stir. Then float some Galliano on the top. The proportions are up to you. More or less vodka depending on how strong you like it. More or less Galliano depending on how sweet you like it.
There’s only one problem with this classic recipe. Galliano doesn’t float on a mixture of vodka and orange juice. It will sink. So I’ve no idea why the recipes call for it to be floated. So when that inevitably happens to you, don’t worry about it.