The tasting was blind, fellow judges Martin Cate, owner of tiki bar Smuggler's Cove, and Borys Saciuk, brand ambassador for 42 Below Vodka, and I were behind a mirror, so we couldn't tell which bartender mixed which drink. Besides enjoying eight mighty delicious libations, I also learned some interesting things. To find out what they are, keep reading.
I turned to fern bar expert Martin Cate to answer why the Wallbanger's come back into the fray.
"People are still using the tiki era as inspiration for drinks, but now they're saying, 'What other eras can we draw from?'" he explained of the recent rumored fern bar revival. "People are looking for something fun and different to grab onto."
As for the original Harvey, it's good, but not great, says Cate. "It doesn't have enough acid, and it's awfully sweet. But there's flexibility with Galliano, and a little spice notes give it more pep." To bring the Wallbanger up to speed with today's complex cocktails, Martin shared with us his interpretation of what a modern-day drink at Henry Africa's could look like. His new and improved version, after the break.
Honey lends a grassy, floral flavor to drinks, but it doesn't pour well and can crystallize. Honey syrup offers the same flavors but makes the nectar much easier to use: it pours smoothly, incorporates well, even in ice-cold drinks, and stores for up to a month.
Use the basic recipe to sweeten everything from tea to sorbet to mojitos, or infuse it with different herbs if you're in the mood to go crazy. For the no-recipe recipe, read on.
"Harvey is essentially a lemonade, only with vodka," cocktail historian Martin Cate explained of the familiar-flavored drink. "People love orange juice, vanilla, the herbal quality."
Indeed, the Harvey has managed to top San Francisco menus in many incarnations: with bubbly, alongside brunch, and as a classic pitcher standard — just like in the 1970s when, Cate said, the drink "became a cultural phenomenon.
"They used to sell a party kit with cartoons dressed up named Harvey Wallbanger, and it gave you a recipe for how to make a giant punch bowl. The Wallbanger was a big deal."
To enjoy a blast from the past in your own home, you'll need Galliano, an anise-tinged Italian liqueur. Cate recommends using the brand's new formula, which has more alcohol and less vanilla sweetness, and he prefers to incorporate the liqueur rather than floating it. To achieve an authentic version of the seventies classic, read more.