It’s like liquid sunshine, dude
The Harvey Wallbanger is a refreshing mix of vodka, orange juice, and Galliano liqueur. Its sunny flavor is perfect for poolside sipping, and it makes an ideal brunch drink if you’re looking for an alternative to the Bloody Mary Cocktail or the Mimosa.
The Harvey Wallbanger was among the most popular cocktails of the 1970s. There’s confusion about how the drink originated (more on that later). One thing is certain, though. Its rise to prominence was fueled by a successful advertising campaign that featured a cartoon surfer in sandals. His slogan? “Harvey Wallbanger is the name and I can be made.” (Yeah, I know.)
Fortunately, this drink is tasty enough to live down those 70s associations. It’s also exceptionally easy to mix, and you can even lower the alcohol content if you choose. Which means you can enjoy two or three of these over a lazy afternoon, and still be alert and ready to party that night. Or be in shape to catch the big wave when it rolls in.
Recipe: The Harvey Wallbanger Cocktail
This drink tastes of OJ (freshly squeezed is best) with pleasing hints of vanilla and anise — the two most prominent flavor notes of Galliano. Most liquor stores, and many groceries, stock Liquore Galliano L’Autentico, which is what you want for this drink. There’s also a Galliano Vanilla, which (as the name suggests) has a more prominent vanilla flavor. You’re much less likely to see this version on store shelves in the US (and though some people like to use it in the Harvey Wallbanger, Galliano L’Autentico is what most drinkers prefer).
Vodka has no real flavor of its own, but it contributes most of the booze quotient to this drink. Although Galliano has a higher alcohol content (42.3%) than most vodkas (40%), you use less of it.
In the 1970s, the most popular recipe for this drink called for 1 ounce of vodka and ½ ounce of Galliano. Today, most recipes increase the vodka to 1½ or 2 ounces. If you’re just looking for a pleasant summer sipper, I suggest using 1 ounce of vodka. If you want something with more kick, try 1½ ounces. IMO, 2 ounces of vodka is too much in this drink (but if that interests you, pour away).
This recipe takes a few minutes to prepare, and serves one.
- 1 to 2 ounces vodka (to taste; see recipe headnote)
- 4 ounces orange juice (freshly squeezed is best, although supermarket not-from-concentrate works too)
- ½ ounce Galliano L’Autentico as a float (or use a bit less if you prefer)
- garnish of orange slice and/or maraschino cherry (optional; a cocktail umbrella is also lots of fun with this drink)
- Fill a tall glass (Highball or Collins; or if you’re feeling festive, a hurricane glass) with ice. Add the vodka, then top off with OJ.
- Stir briefly, then carefully and slowly pour the Galliano on top (it should literally float atop the drink – see Notes).
- Add straws and garnish, and serve.
- Whenever a drink is served with a float, you should always drink it with a straw. Otherwise, your first sip will be overpowered by the flavor of the float — which is not what you want at all. Don’t worry about not tasting the Galliano at first. It’s quite aromatic, so as you sip the drink, you’ll inhale its fragrance.
- Why float alcohol on top rather than mix it in? Well, as you sip the drink through a straw, the top float layer will gradually make its way to the bottom of the glass. By the time you get to the end of the drink, the ice will have melted (at least partially), diluting whatever is left. The float helps boost the flavor of the last few sips.
- Galliano is an Italian liqueur that was created in 1896. In Italy, it’s most often sipped as a digestif — an after-dinner drink. Its anise flavor is reminiscent of Sambuca, but the vanilla notes give it a different complexity. (It also has notes of other herbs, plus citrus.)
- In the US, Galliano is most often used as a cocktail ingredient. It’s rarely consumed as a digestif, though it’s sometimes drunk as shots.
- Other cocktails that use Galliano include the Golden Dream (which also uses Cointreau, OJ, and heavy cream) and some versions of the Blue Hawaii (which also uses lime juice, vodka, and blue curaçao). I owe you recipes for both of those.
- There’s a variation on the Harvey Wallbanger called the Freddie Fudpucker, which substitutes tequila for vodka.
- There’s also a drink called the Wally Harbanger. Despite the play on names, it’s very different from today’s cocktail. It does include Galliano, but the other ingredients are bourbon, lemon juice, and maple syrup or simple syrup.
Tell Me Another
There are lots of stories about how the Harvey Wallbanger originated. One says it was created in 1952 by famed mixologist Donato “Duke” Antone, who supposedly named it after a surfer that frequented his Hollywood establishment, the Blackwatch Bar. (Antone also claimed to have created other popular drinks, including The Rusty Nail — made with scotch and Drambuie — and the White Russian, which contains vodka, Kahlua, and heavy cream).
A competing story says the drink was created by newspaperman Bill Doner in Newport Beach, California. Doner supposedly was throwing a party and had only vodka, OJ, and Galliano on hand, so he mixed them together. One of his guests (named Harvey, of course) overindulged and began banging his head against the wall, blaming the drink for his condition.
Yet another story claims that a California surfer named (guess what!) Harvey liked to drink Screwdrivers (a mix of OJ and vodka) with a float of Galliano. One day, he had a few too many at his favorite watering hole and missed the door when leaving, instead walking head-first into a wall.
Colorful tales, huh? Maybe a bit too colorful — and suspiciously literal.
A more prosaic story says the Harvey Wallbanger was the brainchild of George Bednar, who worked as a marketer for Galliano (he also played football for the St. Louis Cardinals — now the Arizona Cardinals — from 1964 to 1965).
So which story (if any) is true? Well, Robert Simonson has done some major historical research on the Harvey Wallbanger — and you can find the results on his blog, or read an abbreviated version in a Saveur magazine article from December, 2012.
Simonson says that Duke Antone couldn’t have invented the drink in early 1950s Hollywood, since Antone was living and working in Hartford, Connecticut at the time. In addition, as Simonson notes, cocktail historian extraordinaire David Wondrich has shown that, around 1969, the Galliano folks commissioned a commercial artist named Bill Young to create that little cartoon character (the one mentioned earlier) as part of a marketing campaign to push sales of their liqueur. Simonson speculates that Galliano may also have commissioned Antone to develop an appropriate cocktail recipe around the same time. The various back-stories about the Harvey Wallbanger were probably made up for the amusement of bar patrons — who would be sure to pass them on (to the benefit of Galliano’s marketing program).
Is Simonson’s story the final word on the Harvey Wallbanger? Who knows? Too gnarly for me.
Guess I’ll have to console myself with another round of drinks. Sometimes life’s a beach.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Bloody Mary Cocktail
Bermuda Rum Swizzle
Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail
Fog Cutter Cocktail
Singapore Sling Cocktail
Hi John, I'm very impressed with your photography skill. Excellent!
Another awesome cocktail drinks, look so tempting. Thanks for sharing the recipe and the history of The Harvey Wallbanger.
Have a great day.
Hi Amelia, isn't the Harvey Wallbanger history interesting? So often with cocktail history it's basically impossible to determine what's true and what isn't! Thanks for the kind words, and comment.
Informative, fun post - as always :) And clean-crisp-colorful clicks - as always :) Took my breath away - as always :)
I have said it before but I'll say it again - I LOVE when you post your summer cocktails. I am always learning something new (and awesome)! Thanks :)
Hi Suborna, isn't this a great drink? Love the name! Thanks for your kind words, and comment.
Hi Alyssa, glad you enjoy the cocktail posts! They're tons of fun to do. Thanks for the comment.
I could drink in the 70s and everyone had grasshoppers or harvey wallbangers :) Memories!
That looks like one gorgeous and refreshing cocktail for a hot summer day. Love the pictures!
Hey man...love this cocktail dude. :)
Great drink to spice up the summer. Never realized how simple it was. Liked knowing what the float was all about. I thought it had something to do with color layering, but that wasn't necessary for this. Love fresh oj! Thanks.
Going to a pool party this afternoon. Hope they have these available for the adult type people. :)
I have "enjoyed" many a Harvey Wallbanger in my day, John. Of course I was never interested in the why for before but now, I find it more inviting than the drink itself. You see, too many Harvey Wallbangers equals OJ and as I confessed before, the two just don't mix for me anymore:)
In its day, I'm sure if left to an occasional sip here and there I would say it would be more than fine as a summer cocktail.
Thank you so much for sharing...
Hi Maureen, lotta funky drinks in the 70s! Fun to have sometimes, though. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Nik, it really is refreshing, with quite a nice flavor. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Barb, surf's up! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Abbe, a layered drink is usually a pousse-café (these days a lot of people are calling them "shots" of some description). And yes, one of these days I'll do a post about pousse-cafés, although it's going to be a bit. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Debra, these would be perfect at your pool party. ;-) Have fun! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Louise, I find the "why" a lot more interesting than the drinking in this cocktail, too (although it's fun to drink). Too bad this one is no longer for you, but there are plenty of other great drinks out there! Thanks for the comment.
I haven't thought about a Harvey Wallbanger since the 70s. Guess that ages me, huh? Sounds delicious and I love reviving the classic drinks! Great post!
Another one of your wonderful drinks. This one looks like sunshine in a glass and is on its way to my favorites list.
Beautiful pictures, congrats!
Haha I loved the name of this one :P
What a gorgeous cocktail though, love the colour!
P.S I will not be commenting for around 4 weeks to prepare for my exams - see you in a month :)
Hi Bill, I hadn't had this drink for ages before I decided to try it again this year. The drink is a real throwback, but holds up quite well. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Daniela, isn't it a nice drink? Tons of taste, and looks quite nice. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.
Hi Uru, wonderful color, I agree. ;-) And the name rocks! Good luck with your finals, and thanks for commenting.
I just love the colour on this one too. My bro is a bartender and this one always makes me smile when he gets asked about it. Maybe the name of it, not sure, but it inspires giggles for some reason. Yes, I'm 8 years old most days. xx
That is one stunning drink. I am glad I was not the guy that had his name named after the drink. Ouch!!!! I have not ever had one of these so will have to try it very soon. Have a super week and glad to see that on this hump day Wednesday that you are getting the weekend festivities starting early. Cheers, BAM
Harvey Wallbanger is a great drink ...had my first a couple of years ago ... thanks for posting on how to make it ... the pictures is so life like it seems you can pluck it on the page ... thanks for sharing :)
Hi Kim, 8?! More like 6 for me. ;-) It's a fun drink with a great name, and an interesting history. Totally far out! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Bam, it's a great, slow sipper - great for beating the heat. And Wednesday is always a great day to have a drink, or so I've been told. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Nee, definitely time for you to have another, don't you think? :-) It really is a nice drink. Thanks for the comment.
Now you are speaking my language!!! I have heard of this drink, but I don't belive I have ever ordered one. I have extra O.J. and of course vodka.....now I need to locate some Galliano! What a fun blast from the past! Peace man, Take care, Terra
Hi Terra, it's a good drink - perfect for when you wanna chill. ;-) Worth trying sometime. Thanks for the comment.
Oh fabulous! I'm hosting book club tomorrow night and this just might have to be the signature cocktail!!
I've always wondered what's in a Harvey Wallbanger. It has such a great name. Yes, cocktails were big in the 70's - in those days before DUI and random breath-testing. It looks very pretty and summery xx
Delightfully orangy! This cocktail must taste wonderful. The kind of drink I'd love to drink while sitting on my balcony.
With a name like Harvey Wallbanger you would think its origin would be a little more definitive, but obviously not. A lot of interesting tales however. I do remember this drink, but I don't remember ever drinking one. In the 70s in the south, the "orange juice drink of choice" was the Tequilla Sunrise which I had my fair share of. :) I'm not even sure if I've had Galliano. Vanilla and anise flavor - definitely would like it! Have always loved the idea of a "float". That would make a great little experiment for teaching density, but I doubt if one could get away with it at the MS or HS levels. :) Anyhoo - would definitely love to try this one. It obviously is very easy to make. Now all I need is some Galliano. Another fun post John! Thanks!
Hi Shut Up and Cook, this would be a great drink for book club - tasty, not too boozy, takes awhile to drink, and loads of fun. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Charlie, cocktails have actually been making a comeback for the last 10+ years, but for years before that they had declined because people were more interested in wine - probably for some of the reasons you mention. Anyway, it's a fun drink! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Rosa, this is a great slow sippin' drink (particularly when you make it with only 1 ounce of vodka). It'd be great as a balcony beverage! Thanks for the comment.
Hi MJ, one of these days I definitely need to do a post on pousse-cafés, which are layered drinks. Those would be perfect for teaching densities, though definitely not on the HS level. Maybe master's, as a "theoretical" discussion only! You can actually find sources that list the densities of specific brands of liquors and liqueurs. Research can be so rewarding, can't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Mmmm, this looks so good!!
I have a bottle of Galliano sitting on my drinks table for I don't know how long.
Hi cquek, it really is good! Worth trying. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Karen, time to put that bottle to use, maybe? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Loved the first picture!!! Its about time to publish a book with Cocktails :)
Now how cheerful is this little cocktail? So fun, festive and colorful! Love it, John. Cheers!
Hi Shibi, ;-) Glad you liked it! And thanks for the comment.
It really is liquid sunshine! What a gorgeous cocktail and lovely photos to capture it. Very interesting and informative post as usual John! Thanks!
Hi Georgia, this really is one of those cocktails that makes you smile! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Nazneen, it really is liquid sunshine! And a lot of fun, too - both to drink, and learn its history. Thanks for the comment.
It's very cool when drinks have a float! I have never heard of Galliano, but it sounds like a great addition to drinks!
Hi Laura, Galliano has quite nice flavor - worth trying sometime. And so is a Harvey Wallbanger! Thanks for the comment.
I've never made a drink with a float...I need to remedy that! And thanks for explaining the possible origins of the name...I've always wondered...
I have an aunt who used to drink these all the time! In fact, she used to make a Harvey Wallbanger cake, too. I don't remember it being necessarily boozy. But it was definitely orange-y good. ;)
Hi Liz, not too many drinks have floats, but they're kind of nice. And aren't all the possible origins of the name of the drink a hoot? Cocktail history is so much fun! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Carolyn, I actually remember the cake! I never made it, but I've had it (years and years ago). No booze as I recall, and rather sweet - but it's been so long since I've had it, I wouldn't trust my memory. Thanks for the comment.
Oh such a great post John! You know..of all the crazy cocktails I've had from the 70's era...I've never had a Harvey Wallbanger! And I've never tried Galliano either (though I've recently been looking for an authentic Italian aperitif and I may have to look into that liqueur!) I learned a lot from your 'notes' today...thanks so much for sharing them! : )
Hi Anne, glad you enjoyed the Notes! This is a fun cocktail, and Galliano has a pleasant taste. If you like anise-flavored drinks, you'll like this - although the anise isn't nearly as strong as with some other liqueurs. Thanks for the comment.
Liquid sunshine....ahhhh, I love it. It's 89 degrees in my house right now and I would love of these to cool off :)
Such a great drink for brunch! Straws are dangerous for me, as I usually down it pretty quickly. haha! Thanks for sharing this John and have a stellar weekend!
Hi Ashely, 89 is hot, particularly at night. We'll be up in the mid-90s today - ugh! I love summer, but I could do without temperatures over 90. Anyone, one of these does help cool one off! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Anne, it's funny, I've heard other people say they drink quicker with a straw. For me it's the opposite - I take a lot longer to drink through a straw than I do when sipping. Although I'm using thin bar straws, not the fatter straws that most supermarkets carry - that probably explains the difference. Thanks for the comment.
So this is a Harvey Wallbanger. I've heard the name countless times but never new how to make it. Thanks for sharing, I would really enjoy this cocktail.
Hi Nancy, happy to introduce you to how to make this! It's a lovely drink for when the weather is warm, and you want to laze. Thanks for the comment.
What a lovely trip down memory lane. I had forgotten all about Harvey Wallbangers. Interesting about the reason behind floating the alcohol. I have often wondered.
Hi Suzanne, this was memory lane for me, too! Fun drink. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Now this is one drink I've tried many times but yes I bet it was back in the 70s. My sisters and I use to love to make the Harvey Wallbanger cake. Do you remember that? It was so moist and delicious. I should make that again. I haven't had one in years but now I may just have to dust off the bottles in our cabinet and make one.
Did you take photography classes? Your photos are so amazing, they sometimes don't even look real they're so perfect.
Hi Vicki, I do remember the Harvey Wallbanger cake - in fact Mrs K R is pretty sure she's made it in the past. Something to try again. ;-) I did take a couple of food photography courses a couple of years ago (the PPSOP folks - internet based instruction) and they were useful, although I thought a bit overpriced (they now have some courses they didn't have before that look like a much better deal - including food styling). It's a lot of practice that has improved my pictures, and I definitely still have a way to go. But thanks for the kind words, and comment.
Liquid sunshine is the perfect description. :) I agree, having one of these sunshine cocktail by the poolside would be wonderful.
Hi Amy, it's hot here this weekend so I really should enjoy one of these. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Beautiful photos and a perfect drink with brunch!
Hi Kiran, isn't this a nice brunch cocktail? Enjoy! And thanks for the comment.
This post brings back happy memories of my aunt. She loved Galliano liqueur and this was her favorite drink. I recall many an adult get together where my cousins and I would play while the adults partied. :)
Hi Kristi, now that you're an adult, you can enjoy one of these! Glad these have happy memories for you. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
This sounds wonderful and looks wonderful. So refreshing for the summer months.
Hi Dawn, it really is extremely refreshing. And with terrific flavor! Thanks for the comment.
I looked I to that as well a year or two ago but was afraid it wouldn't be enough. I feel like I needed in person hands on instruction. I will check it out again. I still get their emails. What kind of camera and model do you use?
Hi Vicki, there are really only a few things you need to learn to do food photography, then it become a matter of practicing as much as you can. In photography, learning how to control your light is the biggest deal. Then it really becomes more about food styling and such than about actual photography (although you obviously need to know how photography works). I'm currently shooting with a Nikon D5100 that I got on closeout right before Nikon brought out its replacement (the 5200). Before that I shot for years with a Nikon D40, a real low end camera - but more than good enough for web-based photos. Camera isn't that important - whichever one feels good in your hands and with menu controls that you understand will do fine. IMO it's more important to get a decent tripod, and of course figure out your lighiting.
Oh, and in the PPSOP courses you do submit homework (photos) which the instructor critiques. You'll also see the other students' homework and see those critiques, too. The critiques are actually the best part of the course - all the info you need to know is out in various places, but it's great getting specific suggestions on what you're doing. A good book that you might want to look at is Helene Dujardin's Plate to Pixel - that's the best food photo book I've seen.
Yet another refreshing cocktail that I'd happily sip, John! Thanks for sharing. Your photos are just gorgeous.
Hi Hannah, this is a fun one! Great for the hot weather we're experiencing. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.
I might sound silly, but I never thought of the existence of straw is so important in drinks until I read your note (saying we need to drink it with a straw)! Enjoy your tips all the time. All I need is a little stronger alcoholic capacity in me. ;)
Hi Nami, I used to be with you on the straw issue until I found out about floats! Thanks for the comment.
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