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Let’s get this out of the way, and admit that we love a Harvey Wallbanger, provided it’s made with quality vodka, fresh orange juice, and Galliano. It’s tasty, and not only does it work anytime, like at brunch, sitting poolside, or on a night out, it’s also a cultural marker that changed how we view cocktails and the people who drink them.
Basically, the Wallbanger is a Screwdriver with Galliano, simple as that, but the Galliano sets it apart, as does it’s ease of creation, which makes it both easy to drink and easy to make. While that might explain some of the drink’s popularity, it also comes with the distinction of being one of the first cocktails, if not the first cocktail, with a marketing campaign.
Legend has it that the good people at Galliano hired a marketing firm to market this drink, and, by association, their product. So the advertising folks got to work and created a cartoon mascot with a slogan, “my name’s Harvey, and I can be made.” Clearly, the home cocktail enthusiast was the target, and it worked. Here was a cocktail that wasn’t an Old Fashioned, a Martini, a Scotch on the Rocks, or any of the other high alcohol, one-and-done drinks that dominated home bars. In fact, the entire landscape was changing.
By the mid 1960s, right about the time of the Wallbanger’s creation, a new kind of bar, called TGI Fridays, opened in New York City. The TGI Fridays we know today is not the TGI Fridays that opened 50 years ago, instead it was one of what was known as fern bars, places designed for, and marketed to women, which made sense in the 60’s, perhaps. The fern bars succeeded, and became the after work and Friday night destinations for many who otherwise wouldn’t frequent bars. They were bright, pleasant, and decorated like a living room. Before long, they were known as singles bars, and the 1970s was their time to thrive.
Through it all, the Wallbanger was king, and gave rise to a whole host of new, and interesting cocktails, such as the Lemon Drop, the Greyhound, the Sloe Gin Fizz, and the Cosmopolitan, all of which are still made today, but it also gave rise to other concoctions, many with sexually suggestive names, and none of them remarkable. Yet the Harvey Wallbanger remained the most popular of them all. It was sipped in bars, poured at home, and talked about until it just became way too much, and it didn’t last. By the 80s, the fern bars were in the portfolios of corporations, who quickly reformed them as family restaurants. Before long, singles found other ways to entertain themselves, and enthusiast’s tastes changed. If that wasn’t enough to kill the popularity of the Harvey Wallbanger, then Galliano changing their liqueur recipe was the final death knell, and it’s unlikely anyone was terribly disappointed that the cocktail was gone from the world. But was it?
A few years ago, Galliano brought back their original recipe, and, like magic, the Wallbanger came back. Yes, there is a revival on, and we are elated to have this artifact available again. This is a delicious drink, and an important one, and no, you don’t need wood paneling, shag carpet, or platform shoes to enjoy one. Reach for an orange and some Portland Potato Vodka, and rediscover one of the cocktail world’s greatest, and most important, classics.
1 oz (30ml) Portland Potato Vodka
4 oz (120ml) Orange juice
1/2 oz Galliano
Pour vodka and orange juice into an ice filled collins glass, and stir. Float Galliano on top, and garnish with an orange slice.