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What is a Harvey Wallbanger?

By Adam Hill
Updated May 16, 2024
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A Harvey Wallbanger is a type of mixed drink consisting of vodka, Galliano® herbal liqueur and orange juice. The most commonly accepted recipe for the drink calls for four ounces (120 ml) of orange juice and one ounce (30 ml) of vodka to be mixed over ice and stirred. One half ounce (14 ml) of Galliano® is then added on the top, but not stirred in. The drink is served with a straw, as it is meant to be drunk from the bottom up. Due in large part to its name, it has become a very well-known type of cocktail.

The origin of the Harvey Wallbanger is a matter shrouded in mystery, but at least two prominent theories exist. The first is that it was created by a bartender by the name of Bill Doner at a bar called The Office in Newport Beach, California. While this explanation is simple and easy to believe, many prefer the popular legend which holds that it was named after a surfer from Manhattan Beach near Los Angeles.

This version states that the surfer, named Harvey, enjoyed the cocktail known as a screwdriver, which is vodka and orange juice, spiked with Galliano® liqueur. After a particularly difficult day in which he lost an important surfing competition, he is said to have consumed one too many of his favorite drink. When he finally did leave the bar, he was so inebriated that he tripped and stumbled into some furniture and a wall before making his way out the door. He was a regular at the bar, and when he came back the next time, he found he had already earned the nickname "Harvey Wallbanger," hence the name of the drink.

Most stories about the origin of the drink place it in California in or around 1952. In any case, it was not widely known outside that state for some time. It became quite popular starting in the 1970s as a result of being served on flights operated by the airline TWA. The ingredients of a Harvey Wallbanger, although in different proportions, were also incorporated into a bundt cake recipe that is said to taste remarkably like the cocktail itself.

As time has passed, people have modified the original Harvey Wallbanger to suit their own preferences. Some enjoy the drink with the Galliano® stirred in with the rest of the ingredients, rather than floated on top. Citrus-flavored vodka is also a common alternative to the regular type. Some even replace the orange juice with pineapple juice for a refreshing variation. Ideas like these are, of course, how many new drinks are invented.

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