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.

Mrs B.’s Drinks

Mrs. B’s Drinks


Cocktails for Ladies

I have often found myself caught off-guard when asked, “What would you like to drink?”. With a lack of insight, I usually then found myself sipping a glass of orange juice, but longing for something more adventurous.

The world of cocktails, even just vintage ones, is vast and often expensive and so, after a couple of conversations with ladies in a similar situation to myself, I decided to raid the cellar and the bookshelf and find cocktails that could I recommend to female friends. I wanted to arm all of us with a list of choices – relatively straight-forward, easy-to-find choices – for those moments of ignorance and indecision that I had found myself dreading. I hope that this brief introduction provides some insight into a much bigger and vibrant world of cocktails.

From left to right: White Lady, Brandy Alexander, Rusty Nail, Harvey Wallbanger, Simple Rum Cocktail, Sidecar, Sweet Martini

The White Lady (8/10)

This gin-based cocktail was wonderfully smooth and, with its bitter, lemon flavour and creamy froth on top, was highly reminiscent of a lemon meringue pie, only without the excessive sweetness. I could easily see myself sipping and savouring one of these at any point in an evening, although I imagine those with a more refined palate than myself may enjoy specifying their choice of gin to make it even better.

Harvey Wallbanger (7/10)

Vodka, orange juice and Galliano come together to make this a sweet and fruity long drink that probably won’t hang around for too long if you have a sweet tooth and like the strong vanilla flavour. If find sugary cocktails hard to swallow, using Galliano L’Autentico, based on an older formulation, may be just the ticket: the sweet vanilla is then replaced with a subtle aniseed kick. Both variations are delicious with a slice of orange and, for a real treat, freshly squeezed juice.

I found the Harvey Wallbanger much easier to drink than The White Lady and wonderfully thirst-quenching, but thought it likely to disappear all too quickly to really savour.

Mrs B. samples a Harvey Wallbanger

Brandy Alexander (9.5/10)

I have to admit to being less than enthusiastic about cocktails containing cream, and so I was quietly dreading the Brandy Alexander (which I know to be a favourite of Mr. B), but this one was a real surprise. A dusting of nutmeg and chocolate flake draws you into a combination of brandy, crème de cacao, and (in this case, double) cream that is silky and rich, with the warmth in the brandy slowly seeping through after the ice-cream-like beginning. This is a drink that could very easily replace a dessert, in my eyes (and I like my desserts!).

Simple Rum Cocktail (6/10)

With a glass full of crushed ice, refreshing lime and a dash of cola, this cocktail brings back memories of many a summer evening. It is a very enjoyable way of drinking rum, both if you are a fan of the spirit or if you have just been introduced. The other ingredients complement the rum, making it more palatable for a fresh face, but the individual character of the rum still comes through; if you don’t use a rum that you like the taste of on its own, this probably won’t be your favourite.

Sweet Martini (ladies only, according to the Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts) (8/10)

Mixed using Old Tom Gin, which is sweeter than its modern counterparts, this martini was remarkably full of flavour, which was highly unexpected, given its cool, clear exterior. It certainly packs a punch, but the flavour goes far beyond just alcohol; I found myself reminiscing on olives and pizza, making me think that it might serve quite well as an aperitif for an Italian meal. Given its bold flavours, this probably won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it’s an unusual one to try, regardless of your feelings towards the dry martini.

Rusty Nail (8/10)

As a fan of whisky, I was looking forward to this one and wasn’t disappointed: with its combination of Drambuie, a honey and herb liqueur, and blended Scotch, it is a sweeter way to drink whisky without drowning it within a long drink. This would be a delightful drink to slowly sip by the fire at the end of a long day, feeling both the flames and the alcohol gradually warm you up.

Sidecar (9/10)

Finally, we have the Sidecar: a deliciously smooth and fruity cocktail and another one that surprised me, as I’m not generally a fan of brandy. The Sidecar, however, is a short, revitalising drink (that is, nonetheless, relatively easy to manage) with a sharp finish that reminded me distinctly of sherbet. The flavours come together nicely and I believe I could quite happily order one of these at any point during an evening. This is my top pick for a ladies’ cocktail.

In conclusion, by scores alone, the Brandy Alexander was my clear favourite, but, unlike a good cup of tea, I feel that I would need to be in a specific mood to enjoy one as much as I did in this tasting. Therefore, the top spot in my list of cocktails for ladies has to be the Sidecar, followed by the Rusty Nail and The White Lady, with the Brandy Alexander reserved for those times when I’m after a sweet treat, but can’t manage dessert!

There are, of course, many, many other cocktails to try and so I would greatly encourage everyone to try something new; why not ask a barman for a recommendation, stating your favourite spirit as a base? Create your own, tailored list so that you never again find yourself, as I did, unarmed with the perfect drink for an evening.