Cocktail Overhaul: Harvey Wallbanger

Cocktail Overhaul

Taking drinks from the Dark Ages of cocktails and revamping them, with delicious results.

Editor's Note: In Cocktail Overhaul, Jeff Lucas re-imagines drinks from what many consider the dark days of cocktails.


[Photographs: JL Studios]

The Harvey Wallbanger is a classic drink that became immensely popular in the 1970s. It is a simple and sweet mix of vodka, Galliano, and orange juice—essentially a vanilla flavored Screwdriver. Although invented in the early 50s, it really got going only once the 70s hit; and that was an era not known for valuing well-crafted drinks.

Cocktail history is notorious for being murky and convoluted; the story behind the Harvey Wallbanger is no different. According to legend, the Harvey Wallbanger was invented in 1952 by three-time world champion bartender Donato "Duke" Antone. It was created in honor of champion surfer, Tom Harvey. After a day of carving up the waves, Harvey would journey to Antone's bar where he would get drunk and find himself banging into walls trying to find his way out the door.

The problem with all of this is that there is little evidence to support the story and there appears to be no information on surfer Tom Harvey. It's not even clear that he existed at all—except in connection with cocktail origin story. Perhaps he was a figment of a PR person's imagination, but the drink is real—and it's time to get mixing.

The Harvey Wallbanger is not a terrible drink, but it lacks complexity, and the nuances of the Galliano are totally drowned out by the OJ. I wanted my updated version to highlight the Galliano and make it stand out the same way its obnoxiously tall bottle stands out on a back bar shelf.

Orange juice is delicious at breakfast, but always a little weird when it comes to mixing cocktails; it doesn't play nice with other ingredients and often throws a drink out of balance. As I set out to overhaul the ol' Harvey Wallbanger, I wondered how to bring orange flavor into the drink while removing the orange juice. So as I often do when searching for inspiration, I hit the grocery store and wandered the aisles.

And there it was, next to the coffee beans: orange tea. I stumbled upon a Tea Fortè tea called Mojito Marmalade, a delicious blend of Honeybush and Rooibos tea with orange peels and spearmint. It has a rich orange and citrus flavor with cooling mint and hints of vanilla—it's the perfect match for Galliano, a liqueur infused with anise, ginger, citrus, juniper, lavender, and vanilla.

Many argue that any vodka drink can be made better with the addition of a more flavorful spirits, but that's not always the case. Vodka can often be used to highlight the flavor of other ingredients without stealing the show. In the Harvey Wallbanger, it helps Galliano to be the centerpiece, yielding a light and refreshing drink with hints of vanilla and anise complemented by the silky smooth tea.

Get the Recipe

Upgraded Harvey Wallbanger »

About the Author: Jeff Lucas enjoys gadgets and exotic spirits. When it comes to food and drink he'll try anything at least once. You can follow his cocktail musings on twitter @the_mixlab and his blog at