The Harvey Wallbanger is a Cocktail for Surfer Dudes & Disco Darlings

Harvey Wallbanger. It sounds like some sort of slacker dude, and in a way maybe it is. But for our purposes here I’ll say that it is an alcoholic drink or cocktail made with vodka, Galliano, and orange juice. It has a murky pedigree, as do so many classic libations.

Still, we know that it’s one of the original party drinks of the 1970s. It’s also true that they are easy to make and even easier to drink.

There’s nothing simple about its history and its place in the world of alcoholic beverages. This drink has a convoluted past. Marketing professionals got involved in promoting Harvey Wallbangers hard in the 1970s. And that’s probably where the misinformation began.

According to legend, the drink was named after a 1950s era California surfer named Tom Harvey. After a disappointing performance on the waves one afternoon he consoled himself at the legendary Sunset Blvd. watering hole called, Duke’s Blackwatch Bar. Where it is said that two-time world champion mixologist Donato ‘Duke’ Antone was serving up with one of his ‘special’ cocktails, (a Screwdriver with a dash of Galliano liqueur). After several drinks, the disappointed and highly inebriated Harvey tried to leave the bar but unfortunately kept bumping into things, including the walls. Harvey ‘the Wallbanger’ soon became his nickname and this famous cocktail was born.

Now all this may be perfectly true. Or not. But we know that there are plenty of notable ‘Duke’ creations such as The Rusty Nail, The White Russian, The Godfather and The Flaming Caesar. Some of these drinks were created specifically to promote a liqueur. So it would not be unheard of for Mr. Antone to play along in the promotions game. Even if it was 20 years after the supposed fact.


1970 Harvey Wallbanger kitBecause we can say for sure that another version of the story pegs The Harvey Wallbanger as the brainchild of a 1970s Galliano marketing team who needed a cocktail recipe that would put their product on the map. They devised a party kit complete with a cartoon character named Harvey Wallbanger. There were even party games where the point was; you guessed it– to bang into the wall.

So you see Galliano succeeded in making The Harvey Wallbanger into a big deal, which included cross-promotions with TWA as a featured cocktail on board their flights.

In short, The Harvey Wallbanger was one of the hippest drinks of the 1970s. The cocktail was delicious and popular, and even had a fun name, so not surprisingly, The Harvey Wallbanger inspired variations.

The Wally Harbanger – 1 part bourbon or whiskey 1 part lemon juice 1/2 part Galliano 1‑teaspoon simple syrup Mix all ingredients with crushed ice in a shaker. Serve in a highball glass, garnished with a sprig of mint.

The Freddy Fudpucker – 1 part tequila 1/2 part Galliano 4 parts orange juice Combine the tequila and orange juice in a cocktail shaker and blend briefly. Strain over ice into a highball glass, and float the Galliano on top. Garnish with an orange slice. Note: Some versions also include 1/2 part Kahlua combined with the tequila and orange juice.

These variations helped insure that The Harvey Wallbanger was not just a popular cocktail, but also a cultural icon. Because in the much-maligned presidential election of 1972, there were thousands of write-in votes for our Mr. Harvey Wallbanger.

But despite its incredible notoriety, the fate of The Harvey Wallbanger follows that of many other popular cocktails from another era. It’s rarely ordered now, and most people would be hard-pressed to remember the ingredients. But it’s basically a Screwdriver with a bit of Galliano.

Now, of course, you know a Screwdriver, right? It was famously named in 1949, by a couple of American mechanics who liked to pass their lunch hour by spiking their orange juice with vodka. Of course, that left them wondering what to stir their concoction with, their fingers were much too dirty. So they used, wait for it… their screwdrivers. Yeah right…

Harvey Wallbanger Cocktail serves 1 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • orange juice cocktail1 1⁄2 oz vodka
  • 4 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1⁄2 oz Galliano liqueur
  • orange slice
  • marischino cherry

Shake the vodka and orange juice with ice, strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Use a spoon to carefully float the Galliano on top. Garnish with orange slice and cherry.

NOTE: You may alternatively mix all the liquid ingredients together in a volume to match the size of you party and serve this drink from a pitcher.


Greg Henry