The Harvey Wallbanger

With the start of Summer next month, I thought it was time to start looking at some Classic Summer Coolers.

I have found more to the Harvey Wallbanger than originally meets the eye: trying to find the origin of the urban legend was a little tougher than I had imagined. There are a least half a dozen different stories about how the drink came about, involving bartenders, surfers, salesmen, sports editors and even a presidential candidate. However, all of the variations have one thing in common: how the drink got its name.                                                                                                               .

The story goes along these general lines: in California, a chap whose name was Harvey(sometimes referred to as a surfer who had just lost a competition) drank a copious amount of a mix of vodka, orange juice and Galliano, an Italian liqueur. When it came to the time when he left the bar/restaurant/party, he was a little worse for wear and proceeded to bump into the furniture (and walls!) before finally making it out of the door; hence Harvey the Wall-banger.


But where then does the recipe originate?
The cocktail-savvy amongst you may have noticed that the Harvey Wallbanger is essentially a Screwdriver (vodka & orange juice) with Galliano; and you’d be right. In fact, I think it is probable that the Harvey Wallbanger was originally known as the Italian Screwdriver. (Screwdriver + Italian Liqueur) The Italian Screwdriver was created to showcase the effectiveness of Galliano in cocktails for sales executives of the McKesson Import company, Galliano’s US distributor at the time. There is a good portion of evidence that the drink itself was created for the company by Donato D. “Duke” Antone in 1952*. The new name for the cocktail and an amusing back story to go behind it is thought to have been dreamt up when a salesman discussed with a bartender how to make the drink more popular.

What followed was of the most extensive drinks marketing campaigns of the day. A cartoon character, “Harvey”, was designed, a jolly fellow who always looked a bit worse for wear.Harvey’s drink became so popular that the sales of Galliano quadrupled and his influence extended to the sending of thousands of write-in votes to make Harvey Wallbanger a candidate in the 1972 U.S. Presidential Elections.

The writing of this article also neatly coincided with my discovery of a new type of Galliano, based on the original formula, and in the spirit of thorough research I decided to compare the two.

Galliano Vanilla (Purple Cap) – 30% ABV

Flavour is predominanetly vanilla and rather sweet. If you’ve had a Harvey Wallbanger in the last ten years, chances are it was made with this.

Galliano L’Authentico (White Cap) – 42.3% ABV

The new release with flavour with great depth, the vanilla is a lot less prominent, but there is an increase in a flavour of anis. Generally you can taste more herbs and spices and it’s more complex. A more traditional liqueur and a nice addition for fans of cocktails from or inspired by the Golden era.

So to the comparison: the purple cap Galliano produces the Harvey Wallbanger that I’m familiar with: heavy with vanilla, sweeter and quite nice, if you have a sweet tooth; the Authentico is still noticeable in the cocktail, but is distinctly more subtle: there is a little vanilla, which it is neatly backed up by the flavour of anis, which, for those of you with a tooth less sweet, may be welcomed as taking the edge off of the heavy vanilla of before.
In conclusion, my research into the Harvey Wallbanger had been met with many pleasant surprises, and I’ve certainly learnt many things, the main one being: never underestimate a cocktail.


Harvey Wallbanger Recipe from a 1970s Beermat

I did find some evidence of a slightly different recipe from the 1970s (after my original recipe) from a beermat. Here the main difference is the Galliano is added after the drink has been stirred. On trying this I found the flavour was less balanced and the majority of the Galliano come through in the last quarter as the Galliano sinks.

*This was recorded in Mr. Antone’s obituary.

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About DTS

partial to a martini? to a smoke-hazed gin joint & a perfect tipple poured with the style, swank & skill of a true aficionado? …then pull up your stool to the bar, prepare to stock up your cocktail cabinet & get ready to drink it all in as we introduce you to a stitch in times’ resident barman… David T. Smith is a drinks enthusiast currently residing in the U.K. a long-time fan of tasting & exploring various types of alcohol, he has a fascination for vintage spirits and cocktails, in particular their heritage & origins; this was strengthened last year when he presented a talk and accompanying monograph on the Martini. it was as a result of his research of this topic that he was introduced to drinks paraphernalia, & he is now the happy owner of a colourful collection of bottles, books, and gadgets from a wide range of eras… an avid believer in the validity and variety of personal opinion, particularly in the subjective area of tasting, he enjoys hosting tasting sessions for friends, constantly challenging them to find their own favourite tipple. in addition to all of this, he is also interested in economics, three-piece suits, board games & keeping alive the art of engaging in enjoyable conversation with a good glass of port whilst surrounded by pipe smoke… Thanks to Analiebe for writing this rather flattering blurb for me.

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