Who Was Harvey Wallbanger and Where Did He Go?
YouTube/Blue Canoe Productions
Simply put, the Harvey Wallbanger is a cocktail that is made up of vodka, orange juice and Galliano (a sweet, herbal Italian liqueur). But, it’s so much more than a jazzed up screwdriver though. It was one of the most popular cocktails in the 1970s before being largely forgotten for the last few decades. That was until a recent resurgence of the cocktails of 70s and 80s in the last few years. Bartenders are beginning to embrace some of the lost classics like the Harvey Wallbanger. But, where did the drink come from and why did it disappear for so long?
Like any good cocktail legend, it has a widely disputed history. The first recipe for the drink was published in the 1970s, but many believe that the drink had already been around for many years before then. It is widely believed that Donato “Duke” Antone, a California bartender created the drink in 1952. It’s believed that he named it after a famous Manhattan Beach surfer named Tom Harvey. Although the drink was invented, it didn’t really become popular until the early 1970s. Retired NFL player George Bednar was in charge of marketing for the company that owned Galliano. At some point, someone told Bednar about the drink and he tried it and made it his mission to popularize it. He first marketed the drink as an alternative to the bloody Mary or Mimosa for the brunch crowd. In the late 60s and early 70s, the drink even got a very miserable looking mascot named Harvey Wallbanger who was drawn by Bill Young.
But, is this the true story of Harvey Wallbanger or another legend that can’t be verified? “This has been researched and contemplated by scientists, historians and archeologists for decades,” says Jaron Berkhemer, US Marketing Director for Galliano and Lucas Bols. “The consensus is that Harvey was a Manhattan Beach, CA surfer who loved spiking his Screwdrivers with Galliano.” After losing a surfing competition some time in the early 70’s, he had a few too many and banged his head against the wall out of frustration. “And that’s how a legend was born.” The first story seems more likely, but the second one is definitely more fun. Regardless of which one is true, the Harvey Wallbanger is back and being embraced by a whole new generation of bartenders.
But what is it about the Harvey Wallbanger that has bartenders rediscovering it after all these years? The reason might be just simple nostalgia. What’s old is new again. Clothing in the style of 70s fashion is popular and so are cocktails from the disco era. Galliano and Harvey Wallbanger’s roots run deep. “At one point in time, it was the most popular cocktail in the country,” says Berkhemer. Years ago, the Milwaukee Brewers were dubbed the “Wallbangers”. A semi-popular band even adopted the name. “Thousands of people voted for Harvey Wallbanger in the 1972 presidential election, and Harvey was the signature cocktail on board TWA flights.” Harvey Wallbanger made the 70’s cool. Or vice versa. “And who doesn’t want to relive those days?” For some reason, everybody wants to relive those days, which is why Harvey is reemerging onto the scene (in style).
The Original Harvey Wallbanger
- 1 ¼ oz vodka
- ½ oz Galliano
- 4 oz orange juice
Preparation: Build ingredients in a long drink glass filled with ice cubes and stir. Garnish with orange slice, and get groovy.
The short film BOLS TO THE WALL: The Chronicles of Harvey Wallbanger, from Galliano L’Autentico, is now playing exclusively on YouTube. The mini biopic shines a spotlight on National Harvey Wallbanger Day, which is celebrated every year on November 8th. The film is about the man, the myth, the legend that is Harvey Wallbanger. “So Harvey was this big deal in the 70’s, but then he disappeared,” says Berkhemer. “His rise to the top ended as abruptly as it began.”
People believed that the Harvey Wallbanger disappeared as 1979 turned the corner into 1980, and nobody thought it would ever come back. It was gone like the other dinosaurs of the cocktails world. Cast aside like the Tequila Sunrise, the Grasshopper and the Singapore Sling. The question on everyone’s mind, obviously, was “what happened to Harvey”? Where did he go? What did he do? Why did he go away? And where is he now? The film gives an inside look at Harvey’s life in the spotlight, but also reveals who encouraged Harvey to leave the scene. “What he did between then and now (hint – he wasn’t very good at anything else besides throwing very funky parties), and where he is today.”
Despite many requests by the major movie studios, Harvey insisted that his story be shared only online, and free for everybody. “Rumor has it, it may be the first ever independent, four minute production to be nominated for an Oscar in the ‘Best Movie’ category,” Jokes Berkhemer.
Harvey’s close, Brooklyn, NY-based sidekick and former Boom Chicago Star Tarik Davis put the story on paper. “The magicians at Blue Canoe Productions made it. Original score by the incomparable Vlad Berkhemer. Harvey and Galliano provided the cocktails on set.”
Harvey Wallbanger is a larger than life character with plenty of good stories to tell. “He succeeded, failed, and climbed back: it’s the classic American Story.”
What makes the Harvey Wallbanger such a great drink is the fact that it’s simple, it’s fun, it’s delicious and it’s versatile. Berkhemer suggests trying it with Bourbon, rum, tequila or any other base spirit instead of vodka. “These are the common ingredients for all drinks that want to stand the test of time. Love it or hate it – our grandchildren will still be drinking Harvey Wallbangers. According to popular myth, if you ask you bartender for Harvey, you can meet him in person.” Who wouldn’t want to?