Cocktails made a very slow recovery after World War II. The basics, like the Manhattan and the martini, came back rather quickly. In all honesty, they never really disappeared. During the 1950’s, like most of the culture, we were slowly getting back into the swing of things after three decades of unrest. We tried to put things back together the way they were, but it really did not work that well. Vodka became the staple spirit, once people realized that three martini lunches could be had without smelling of strong liquor. That led us to the 1960’s, where boundaries were pushed as far as they could go. The tiki cocktail craze hit and drinks got complicated. We went from simple combinations of one or two spirits and one mixer to the Mai Tai, Zombie, Planter’s Punch, and crazy combinations of exotic spirits and mixers. Rum was king, and every drink had multiple mixers, liquors, and garnishes. The 1970’s simplified the cocktail game a little. There were a few throwbacks to complexity, like the Long Island Iced Tea, but simpler cocktails returned. They returned with additional flavors. A little bit of a twist on the traditional. It was in this environment that the Harvey Wallbanger thrived.
The Harvey Wallbanger is incredibly simple to make. Take a Screwdriver (1.5 oz. vodka, 4-5 oz. orange juice, and build over ice) and float an additional .75 oz. of Galliano over it. Simple, but with a little twist. The story behind the cocktail also has a little twist. One story revolves around a surfer named Harvey, who had a bad day on the waves. He lost a big contest, and went to one of the local watering holes, where Donato “Duke” Antone had a drink special going that day: a Screwdriver with a float of Galliano. Harvey apparently loved them, and spent the afternoon drinking them. When he got up to leave, he was stumbling out of the bar, hitting tables and banging into walls. From that day forward, they called him “Harvey the Wallbanger”, and the name stuck to the drink. The twist to the story? It could have been completely fabricated by the Galliano company, who was trying to figure out a way to sell their liquor to a market that was willing to experiment. The drink was invented in the 1950’s, but did not hit its stride until the 1970’s. It was so popular that it actually earned enough votes in the 1972 election to be noticed, and was named as one of the top food fads of the 70’s by the Food Network.
Much like polyester suits and disco, the drink fell back into obscurity after the 1970’s. You will still see a tall, lone, golden bottle of Galliano in bars, just waiting to be used in a Harvey Wallbanger, possibly a Golden Cadillac. It will then go back to its seat on the shelf. There are rumblings that the elaborate craft cocktail movement may be transitioning to simpler cocktails, and the Harvey Wallbanger might become one of the fads of 2013. On this November 8th, National Harvey Wallbanger Day, search out one of those distinctive cocktails and try and become a trendsetter. Cheers!