The History of the Harvey Wallbanger

An article I wrote for Chilled Magazine.

No matter how many you have, you’ll never forget the Harvey Wallbanger. With one of the most memorable names, this drink has made quite the splash in cocktail history.

According to mixology mythology, this classic was named after a surfer in the 1950s. After losing out on a surfing competition in California, the saddened surfer, Tom Harvey, swung by a bar he often frequented and ordered his favorite mixed drink: orange juice and vodka laced with Galliano. As he downed glasses upon glasses of his favorite concoction, he banged his head against the wall out of frustration from the loss. From that day on, his beloved drink became known as the Harvey Wallbanger.

The Harvey Wallbanger cocktail. Image via examiner.com.
The Harvey Wallbanger cocktail. Image via examiner.com.

Longstanding legend has it that the bartender who first mixed the soothing cocktail was Donato “Duke” Antone, who ran Duke’s Blackwatch Bar on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood in 1952. Antone was known to be a topnotch bartender, but the Wallbanger didn’t become popular until the early 1970s. This was because of George Bednar, the marketing director of McKesson Imports Co., an importing company that handled Galliano, who found out about the cocktail and its story and advertised it as a replacement for the Bloody Mary during brunch. Late in 1969, the sandal-wearing, stressed-looking cartoon Harvey Wallbanger mascot was born, and his famous line was, “Harvey Wallbanger is the name and I can be made!”

And so the world got busy making Harvey Wallbangers. The favored cocktail was consumed at parties and on trains, it was sold in bottles, people named their pets after the drink and soon enough, even Harvey Wallbanger cakes were sold. The craze went on for years, but as with most fads, it eventually fizzed out.

“Today Harvey is making a comeback,” Jaron Berkhemer, Marketing Director USA at Lucas Bols said. “We are seeing Harveys on menus in its original form, but also in various twists.”

After decades of a long sabbatical, the Wallbanger, which tastes like a screwdriver with a hint of vanilla along with its smooth, refreshing texture is rumored to be hanging around the bars again. Numerous variations have been found, such as the Whiskey Wallbanger, the Whipped Banger and the De-Constructed Harvey.

According to Berkhemer, Lucas Bols is encouraging people to report Harvey Wallbanger sightings anytime the cocktail is seen by tweeting #FindHarvey, whether it’s on a menu, on TV, or advertised online or in the paper. For a hot trail as to where this classic has been found, follow the search at find-harvey.com.

Recipe

1½ oz Vodka

½ oz Galliano L’Autentico

4oz fresh squeezed Orange Juice

Preparation

Mix vodka and orange juice in a highball glass filled with ice cubes. Pour on a float of Galliano L’Autentico and garnish with an orange wedge

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