The Harvey Wallbanger cocktail is essentially a Screwdriver with Galliano Italian (anise) liqueur. I’ve mentioned Galliano before in regards to the Hurricane Cocktail.
Some versions of the Harvey Wallbanger have gin instead of vodka. Like many drinks, this cocktail has a funny story attached to its origin.
It’s said to be named after a real, and quite drunken, fellow that did indeed bang his head on the walls, inspiring the bartender to name the drink after him.
Who is Harvey Wallbanger?
Harvey, the story goes, was a California surfer. At one point, he was competing in a surfing championship and he wiped out pretty bad.
Afterwards, to make himself feel better, he went to a beach bar to get his drink on.
Some versions say the bar he went to was Pancho’s Bar in Manhattan Beach. He ordered vodka and orange juice with Galliano. Either in a drunken stupor or in frustration, he banged his head against the wall and the bartender thereafter named the drink the Harvey Wallbanger. This happened sometime in the 1960’s. The Harvey Wallbanger cocktail, as far as we know, is not mentioned in print until 1971.
Another version names the bar as Duke’s Blackwatch Bar on Sunset Blvd and places the story in the 1950’s. Harvey the surfer got so drunk on his Galliano infused Screwdrivers that he stumbled repeatedly and banged his head up against the wall.
‘Duke’ was the nick name of the famous Los Angeles mixologist Donato Antone, the owner of the Blackwatch. The drink is said, indeed, to have been invented by him in 1952, or thereabouts. Antone was a world champion mixologist and is frequently said to be responsible for many iconic cocktails, including the Rusty Nail and the Godfather.
Although it is not clear at all how the drink really got its name, it’s doubtful this story is true. Galliano certainly had no problem with the name, though. A Galliano salesman named George Bednar actually helped make the drink famous in the 1970’s and Galliano even used a cartoon surfer to promote their liqueur for a while!
Harvey Wallbanger Cocktail Recipe
1 1/2 ounces vodka
3 to 4 ounces orange juice
1/2 ounce Galliano
orange slice for garnish (if desired)
Combine the vodka and orange juice in a tall ice-filled glass. Float the Galliano over the top of the drink, using the back of a spoon. Serve garnished with the slice of orange. Some people put in a maraschino cherry, as well. Serve with a straw and a drink stirrer.
Do you know any other stories about the origin of the Harvey Wallbanger? If so, I’d love it if you’d share your knowledge below!