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What is a Screwdriver Cocktail?

By Lori Smith
Updated May 16, 2024
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A screwdriver cocktail is a popular alcoholic beverage, traditionally prepared with two parts vodka and one part orange juice. It is usually served in a tall highball glass with ice, which is also called on the rocks. This drink can be enhanced with an orange or lemon slice to add a festive garnish to the drink. While the beverage can be made at any time, it is frequently requested during daytime events, such as formal luncheons or wedding receptions where alcoholic beverages are served. This is a classic drink, often enjoyed for its light, refreshing citrus flavor.

The screwdriver cocktail has been around since the late 1940s. According to culinary lore, it was named for the American engineers who spiked cans of orange juice with vodka, and then used actual screwdrivers to mix the beverage. Since then, many contemporary versions have been created by adding other flavors and liquors to the basic mixture.

The primary alcoholic ingredient in a screwdriver cocktail is vodka. This is a popular distilled liquor, made mostly of water and ethanol, and often prepared from fermented grain, potatoes, rye, or wheat. Its alcoholic content can be as high as 50% by volume, which makes vodka a very strong, intoxicating beverage. Made all over the world, several variations of vodka exist, even some flavored varieties, and all of them can be used to make this common bar drink.

People often associate vodka with well-known imported Russian brands, some of which have been around since the 15th century. Russian vodka is often distilled with wheat and rye grain. Other premium brands of the liquor include those imported from France, Sweden, and Poland. Such imported types are often flavored, with extracts of vanilla or lemon, which have grown in popularity since the 1990s. Often, flavored varieties can be used in the screwdriver cocktail instead of plain vodkas.

Other types of liquors or juices are sometimes mixed into the concoction, in addition to orange juice, when preparing the screwdriver cocktail. For example, adding a sweet Italian liqueur, such as Galliano® or Amaretto, can give the beverage a unique flavor. Sometimes people add pineapple juice to the traditional recipe, to further enhance its citrus qualities, and to add a touch of natural, fruity sweetness.

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Discussion Comments

By SteamLouis — On Apr 02, 2014

Screwdrivers are very strong. I think that two parts vodka for one part orange juice is not diluted enough. One does not realize right away, but the vodka really hits after about half an hour.

The screwdriver cocktail is refreshing and tasty as the article said, so there is the risk of drinking too much too fast. Those with a high tolerance for alcohol may not have a problem, but others can become drunk fairly quick with this cocktail. It has happened to me and I must say that the hangover was not pleasant. I had a terrible migraine the whole next day.

So even though a screwdriver looks innocent, it's not. I suggest taking it easy and sipping on the cocktail slowly. It's a good idea to eat beforehand as well.

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