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tumblr_inline_moeit2yoeL1qz4rgpProbably most of us have had at least a few Harvey Wallbangers over the years.  My first was served out of a huge plastic trash can at a frat party in Geneva, NY back in the early 1980’s.  My most recent was at 2014’s Tales of the Cocktail® in New Orleans where it was served at one of the many parties.  But, few of us know the true story behind this variation on a Screwdriver.  Fellow writer Robert Simonson penned the following article a few years ago and uncovered the fascinating man behind the myth.  So, make yourself a H.W. and spend a few minutes with a legend.

Searching for Harvey Wallbanger by Robert Simonson 

The Harvey Wallbanger has one of the most memorable names in cocktail history. And one of the worst reputations.

A mix of vodka, orange juice and Galliano, it was one of the preeminent drinks of the 1970s, a decade recognized by drink historians as the Death Valley of cocktail eras—a time of sloppy, foolish drinks made with sour mix and other risible shortcuts to flavor, and christened with foolish monikers like Mudslide and Freddie Fudpucker.

Not that Harvey Wallbanger is one of those. It’s actually got one of the best—and most unforgettable—handles in the annals of mixed drinks. This may be why it’s survived long enough to be reappraised. Shortly after Galliano reconfigured its recipe a couple of years ago, returning the Italian liqueur to its original formula, mixologists began to sneak the drink back on respectable lists.

This is all good news for Donato “Duke” Antone, the largely forgotten bartender who, according to longstanding legend, is the creator of the Wallbanger, as well as a number other two-ingredient wonders of the time, like the Rusty Nail and White Russian. Antone, the oft-repeated story goes, ran Duke’s “Blackwatch” Bar on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood in the 1950s. The few biographical facts that pop up again and again tell us that he was the brother-in-law of one-term New York State Senator Carlo Lanzillotti, and that he managed featherweight boxer Willie Pep, a childhood friend. He died In 1992 at the age of 75, according to an obit in the Hartford Courant. At the time he was the retired headmaster of the Bartending School of Mixology in Hartford. The Courant notice repeated the claims that he invented the Wallbanger, Rusty Nail, as well as the Flaming Caesar and many other drinks.

So, did he? As much as we hate to doubt a WWII vet and “the recipient of two silver stars, two bronze stars, two Purple Hearts and a Croix de Guerre” (the Courant), the bartending profession has a long history of credit-grabbing. The provenance of almost every famous cocktail is clouded by the claims and counterclaims of various barmen. Even Jerry Thomas, the father of modern mixology, wasn’t above a fib or two.

Certainly, all the drinks associated with Donato display the same, ham-fisted modus operandi. Take a potent, straightforward base spirit (vodka, whiskey), throw in a taste-profile-dominating liqueur (Galliano, Drambuie, Amaretto, Kahlua), maybe some juice or cream, and presto: new drink! But few figures in bartending history can lay their hand to so many famous drinks, so one doubts Donato invented all of them. So this article will concentrate on clearing away as much fog as possible from the most frequent cited of his children.

According to folklore, Donato invented the Harvey Wallbanger in 1952. It is said he named it after a Manhattan Beach surfer and regular named Tom Harvey—a man about whom we can find nothing. But the cocktail didn’t become popular until the early 1970s. This sudden reversal of fortunes coincides with the arrival of George Bednar, who in 1966 became marketing director of McKesson Imports Co., an importing company that handled Galliano. Previously, the liqueur had a staid ad campaign that featured the line “Fond of things Italiano? Try a sip of Galliano.” Bednar somehow found the Wallbanger and hoisted it up the barroom flagpole. The original ads pushed the drink as a replacement at brunch for the Bloody Mary. Round about late 1969, a rather pained-looking, sandal-wearing mascot named Harvey Wallbanger appeared. His line: “Harvey Wallbanger is the name and I can be made!”

And, boy, did the world make him! Soon, reports were cropping up of bowls of Wallbangers being consumed at Hamptons parties and on Amtrak trains. Harvey Wallbanger cakes were sold. A Puli named after the drink won dog shows. By 1976, Holland House was putting out a Wallbanger dry mix and pre-blended bottles of the cocktail were sold. Riding this wave, Galliano became the number one most imported liqueur during Me Decade, exporting 500,000 cases a year to the U.S. (You’d think the Galliano people—the liqueur is now owned by Lucas Bols—would be interested in the origins of their most famous drink. But the company, while curious, had little or no information to offer about the Wallbanger or Donato.)

Antone, however, is difficult to find during this heyday. He’s not quoted or mentioned in articles or advertisements. The California ABC office can find no listing for a bar called Duke’s “Blackwatch” Bar on Sunset. (To be fair, their computer records are not complete.) Neither do L.A. guides or newspapers from the time mention it. Given that the drink rose to fame with the arrival of Bednar, one can’t help but suspect that good old Harvey was the invention of the Galliano marketing department, and that Antone had nothing to do with it.

The flaw in that theory lies in the Courant obit, which indicates that Antone himself never denied creating the drink. So what came first, the Blackwatch or the Bednar?

I dug up a number of answers in the back pages of the Hartford Courant, which printed a few stories on Antone over the years. It even ran a photo or two, provided pictorial evidence that a short, balding man with thick, black-framed glasses named Donato “Duke” Antone did indeed breathe air. A 1966 Courant article about Antone’s bartending school, located on Farmington Avenue, tells us that he was born in Brooklyn in a Italian-Jewish neighborhood, ran liquor for bootleggers as a youngster, had his first legal bartending job at a place called Diamond Jim Brady’s, and was he was “a likable, fast-talking Runyoneseque character.”

Turns out, there’s a good reason you can’t find evidence of Antone and the Blackwatch Bar in Los Angeles during the 1950s and ’60s. It’s because the man was living in Hartford that entire time. The 1966 Courant piece says he founded his school in 1949 “after he found, when working in Las Vegas, that it was difficult to find good bartenders,” and that it “took him 14 years to perfect the school’s curriculum.” Those would be the years when he was supposed mixing up Harvey Wallbangers for beach bums.

The 1966 story identifies Antone as the author of some new drinks—including the Italian Fascination, which “has won prizes” and “contains Galliano, Kahlua, triple sec and sweet cream”—but the Wallbanger is not mentioned as one of them. However, in a subsequent 1970 Courant story (about how Antone taught his trade to his 12-year-old son!), Antone gets full credit for the Wallbanger. Of course, by that time, the drink was gaining fame and popularity. So what happened between those two date lines?

This sentence in a 1977 Courant piece, in which Antone is “retired,” might hold the key: “Antone…has not limited himself to mixing drinks. Rather, he has been active in all aspects of the liquor industry ranging from restaurant design to marketing.”

“Marketing”! OK, theory time. Could it be that George Bednar, newly hired at McKesson in 1966 and looking for a way to boost Galliano sales, read about Antone’s Galliano-heavy Italian Fascination cocktail, and then traveled up to Hartford to see if the bartender, for a fee, could come up a few more cocktails featuring the liqueur? (Around this time, Antone also invented Freddie Fudpucker, basically a Harvey Wallbanger with tequila.) The tale of the Blackwatch Bar, phantom surfer Tom Harvey, and the sudden appearance of the Wallbanger cartoon figure—that could all well be examples of Bednar and Antone’s marketing acumen. One can see how the two men might have bonded. Antone was a boxing man, and Bednar played football for Notre Dame and the St. Louis Cardinals in the mid-’60s. Booze and sports. They were made for each other.

Noted cocktail historian David Wondrich—who, as it turns out, has been doing his own digging in the Wallbanger—pointed out the Harvey surfer character had been designed by commercial artist name Bill Young, at Galliano and McKesson’s behest. The cartoon figure hit the U.S. like a lava flow in late 1969, “pop art posters, bumper stickers, buttons, crew shirts, mugs and the whole bit,” according to an Oct. 30, 1969, San Antonio Light article uncovered by Wondrich.

“I wonder what the execs at McKesson thought in 1969,” mused Wondrich, “when Bill Young showed them the dopey little cartoon surfer he had come up with, complete with a dopey name, ‘Harvey Wallbanger,’ and an equally dopey slogan, ‘I can be made.’ I doubt they realized what they were in for. With Young’s Harvey to blaze the way, Antone’s simple—even dopey—drink would go on to be the first drink created by a consultant to actually take the nation by storm.”

By 1981, Duke had opened a new academy, Antone’s School of Mixology, and was full-on boasting that he was the genesis of “the Harvey Wallbanger, the Rusty Nail, the White Russian and the Kamakazi, as well as the Freddie Fudpucker.” The reporter of that account, sticking in the word “claims” a couple of times, seemed disinclined to believe him.

Do I believe him? Well, I never had much faith in the story of the Harvey Wallbanger’s creation. (A surfer at Manhattan beach going all the way to Sunset Boulevard for a drink? A Italian-American who gives his bar a Scottish name?) But I do believe Antone had something to do with creating the cocktail. To paraphrase the cartoon Harvey, “cocktail history is the game, and I can be made up.”

Robert Simonson writes about spirits, cocktails and wine for such publications as The New York Times, Imbibe, Edible Brooklyn and Manhattan, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and GQ. He holds an advanced certificate from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, and another from the Beverage Alcohol Resource. He was nominated for 2012 Spirited Award for Best Cocktail Writing. Follow him on Twitter: @RobertOSimonson

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89e6fabfa0dede96f74d048569e2d6f6Looking for some summer reading while you sip on a G&T, Margarita or Mai Tai?  

Here are some upcoming books to keep an eye out for.  Cheers!

51KQX8+7x5LDrinking with the Democrats: The Party Animal’s History of Liberal Libations by Mark Will-Weber (Regnery History) – This election year, celebrate the Democratic Party by drinking like a Democrat! Organized by president, this fun gift book is full of cocktail recipes, bar tips, and hysterical drinking anecdotes from all Democratic White House administrations. Which Southern man drank Snakebites? How did Jackie-O like her daiquiris? Drinking with the Democrats is the bar guide with a twist that all political buffs will enjoy!

51byvzMbAeLDrinking with the Republicans: The Politically Incorrect History of Conservative Concoctions by Mark Will-Weber (Regnery History) – This election year, celebrate the Republican Party by drinking like a Republican! Organized by president, this fun gift book is full of cocktail recipes, bar tips, and hysterical drinking anecdotes from all Republican White House administrations. Which president liked to mix whiskey, vodka, and orange juice? Who had a trick for hiding the labels of cheap wine? Drinking with the Republicans is the bar guide with a twist that all political buffs will enjoy!

41AZX1-uV+LShots of Knowledge: The Science of Whiskey by Rob Arnold & Eric Simanek (Texas Christian University Press) – Shots of Knowledge is a guidebook for whiskey lovers. Organized into approximately sixty illustrated essays, the book samples selected topics in whiskey production through the lenses of science and engineering. While the essays are subdivided into three sections—From Sunshine to Sugar, From Wee Beasties to White Dogs, and From Barrel to Brain—the reader is free to sip them in any order. The story commences with water, carbon dioxide, and sunlight; travels through the manufacturing process; and ends with the molecules that entertain the palate. Whether the topic is photosynthesis, bubble caps, oak speciation, or a mechanistic enzymology, the essays seek to reveal the simple beauty too often hidden in science and engineering. At approximately one page in length, each essay and accompanying artwork can be digested slowly at the rate estimated at three essays per bourbon or Scotch.

41gZ6X8AllLAquavit: Nordic Spirit by Heel Verlag (Heel Verlag Gmbh) – This stylishly-produced book describes the history of the famous Aquavit spirit and the way it is produced, also throwing a glance at the bar scene in Denmark, Norway and Germany. It contains about 30 recipes for drinks and cocktails based on Aquavit, all of them newly created by international bartenders, further 20 recipes from Danish and Norwegian top chefs using Aquavit as an ingredient for their stunning dishes. Finally the volume provides a comprehensive glossary and information on more than 70 different sorts of the famous spirit.

41XCZgsKAhLCocktail Infographics: A Visual Guide to Creating 200 of the World’s Best Cocktails by Jordan Spence (Carlton Books) – This is mixology made simple! Prepare a first-class cocktail with these fun, at-a-glance infographic recipes. Each one visually displays the precise measurements and ingredients in the correct type of glass, with easy-to-see proportions. More than 200 recipes feature old favorites and modern inventions plus garnishes, from the Manhattan and Negroni to the Green Tea Martini, from coolers and coladas to slings, sours, and screws. An informative introduction gives details on equipment, bar stocking, and basic techniques.

51UDA7dyqGLCocktails by Klaus St. Rainer (DK) – Learn the art of mixing perfect drinks with Cocktails, the third “Best Cocktail Book in the World.” Klaus St. Rainer, an award-winning expert voted “Bartender of the Year” in 2013, shares 70 cocktail recipes for all the key classics as well as his own signature creations. Whether you want to make a simple drink with just a few ingredients, prepare large quantities for a cocktail party, or even create a mocktail, this authoritative guide will have you mixing the perfect aperitif. The book’s classy design and evocative photography will inspire you to find what tickles your taste buds, from the classic Dry Martini and Old Fashioned to the unusual Red Beet Gimlet and Caramellow Royale. Professional tips and techniques are revealed—should it be shaken or stirred?—and clear instructions make it easy. Cocktails teaches you the science of mixology so you can make the ultimate cocktail every time.

81FNF02-tCLShake. Stir. Sip.: More than 50 Effortless Cocktails Made in Equal Parts by Kara Newman & John Lee (Chronicle Books) – Some of the best cocktails are the easiest to make, and author Kara Newman figured out the secret—using equal parts of the main ingredients and adding a dash of bitters or a splash of seltzer to gild the lily. Take the Cucumber Gimlet: Combine one part each vodka, lime juice, and lemonade; 2 cucumber slices; then garnish with a basil leaf! And beverages like this are a breeze to size up for parties—just double, triple, or quadruple the proportions. This book contains 40 simple recipes, from two-ingredient sips like the Bamboo Cocktail to timeless classics like the ever-popular Negroni, proving that great, artisanal cocktails don’t have to come from a bar.

51JVgEmKZQLA Proper Drink: The Untold Story of How a Band of Bartenders Saved the Civilized Drinking World by Robert Simonson (Ten Speed Press) – A narrative history of the craft cocktail renaissance, written by a New York Times cocktail writer and one of the foremost experts on the subject. A Proper Drink is the first-ever book to tell the full, unflinching story of the contemporary craft cocktail revival. Award-winning writer Robert Simonson interviewed more than 200 key players from around the world, and the result is a rollicking (if slightly tipsy) story of the characters–bars, bartenders, patrons, and visionaries–who in the last 25 years have changed the course of modern drink-making. The book also features a curated list of about 40 cocktails–25 modern classics, plus an additional 15 to 20 rediscovered classics and classic contenders–to emerge from the movement.

61ArUxQkBpLColonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History by Steven Grasse (Abrams Image) – In Colonial Spirits, Steven Grasse presents a historical manifesto on drinking, including 50 colonial era– inspired cocktail recipes. The book features a rousing timeline of colonial imbibing and a cultural overview of a dizzying number of drinks: beer, rum and punch; temperance drinks; liqueurs and cordials; medicinal beverages; cider; wine, whiskey, and bourbon—all peppered with liquored-up adages from our founding fathers. There is also expert guidance on DIY methods for home brewing. Imbibe your way through each chapter, with recipes like the Philadelphia Fish House Punch (a crowd pleaser!) and Snakebites (drink alone!). Hot beer cocktails and rattle skulls have never been so completely irresistible.

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indexAnother season, another shelves’ worth of books have arrived at the GSN offices.  Here’s a look at what we’ve been reading this summer.

Home Bar Basics and Not-So-Basics 2nd Edition by Dave Stolte (Wexler of California)  If you’re experiencing a sense of deja vu, you’re right.  I reviewed this book when it originally came out back in 2011.  However, this is the expanded and revised 2nd edition.  Is it worth the upgrade? I’ll leave that up to you, but there are some differences worth noting.  The book now has a spine covering the wire ringed binding, the inside cover has units of volume and info on the number of drinks you can safely consume per hour.  The introduction has been re-written to include a treatise on hospitality, and many of the sections have been overhauled and updated.  But, the most interesting aspect comes from several alternate illustrations and the addition of five new “not-so-basic” drinks.  So, yeah, it’s worth the price.  By the way, Dave’s book was a finalist for Best New Cocktail Book at the 6th Annual Spirited Awards in New Orleans this year.  GSN Rating: A-

indexSake Confidential by John Gauntner (Stone Bridge Press)  I really enjoy sipping good sake every so often, but many times I am left baffled by the relative lack of information on the bottle.  So, what should I look for and why?  This book seeks to answer 90% of the questions you may have about sake, and it does so in a very straightforward conversational style.  Each chapter is only a few pages long, but gives a better understanding of what styles are available, what makes a high quality sake versus one you should avoid, and the age-old question of whether to drink it hot or cold (the answer may surprise you).  In just a few minutes of reading this book I learned some valuable information which will help me make better informed decisions when picking up a bottle of sake at the liquor store.  GSN Rating: B+

indexThe Old-Fashioned by Robert Simonson and Daniel Krieger (Ten Speed Press)  Take one part David Wondrich and one part 21st century nouveau cocktail guide, gently stir and you have this entertaining volume.  For many cocktail lovers, the Old-Fashioned is the one drink by which a bartender (and often the bar itself) is judged.  There is a reason why this drink has never been forgotten, but rather has been rediscovered as a keystone in the cocktailian holy trinity of Manhattan, Martini and Old-Fashioned.  The first half of this colorful and artistic ode is dedicated to the story of how this simple drink gained popularity over 150 years and finally became an icon for the “Mad Men” age.  The latter half of the book is filled with original recipes crafted by a who’s who of bartenders who have been riffing on the drink for the last 15 years or so.  Tons of fun and educational to boot!  GSN Rating: A-

indexWhiskey The Manual by Dave Broom (Octopus Books)  If you’re thinking this is yet another book on the history of whiskey production, you’d only be partly right.  Certainly there is the usual dissemination on different styles (Irish, Scotch, Canadian, American, Asian) and the processes of distillation and aging, but that only takes up a small portion of this book.  Instead, well over 100 pages are given to dissecting brands of whiskies based on their character, flavor profile and most interestingly, mixability.  Generally, whiskey drinkers are in three camps: straight or with a bit of water or ice; mixed into a cocktail ala a Manhattan or an Old-Fashioned; and the “Jack and Coke” lover.  Author Broom gives recommendations on drinking each brand with either coconut water, cola, ginger ale, green tea or soda water.  Lastly, there are a few classic whiskey cocktail recipes along with a smattering of the sort that mixologists with a large backbar and access to obscure ingredients will love.  GSN Rating: B

indexRestaurant & Bar Design (Taschen)  As with all Taschen books, this is a lovely coffee-table style tome.  Filled with over 400 pages of full color photographs, this will definitely get your creative juices flowing when thinking about bar design.  Broken into five sections including The Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Middle East, each section focuses on visually engaging and stylistically impressive venues.  None of the locales I’ve ever been to are represented, as the focus is on architectural design rather than the cocktail or food menu.  But, just looking at the empty bar stools makes me thirsty.  In the end, this book makes you realize that drinking is not just about enjoying alcohol and sustenance; but as with a cocktail, garnish and presentation are equally important as the taste.  GSN Rating: B+

indexFood & Wine Cocktails 2014 (Food & Wine)  For their 10th anniversary (has it been ten years already?) the staff at Food & Wine decided to go with a retrospective of 150 previously published cocktails that will always be classics, or should be.  As in all the earlier volumes, there are sections on spirits, barware, bar snacks, and a list of the current best bars in the U.S.  Perhaps the most interesting aspects of this edition, are the sections on bar and cocktail trends that have taken place over the last decade.  It makes you realize how far the cocktail industry has truly come.  I have to take a few points off for repetition, but if you just want a “best of” collection then this anniversary edition is for you.  GSN Rating: B+

indexAlchemy in a Glass: The Essential Guide to Handcrafted Cocktails by Greg Seider (Rizzoli)  A true cocktail guide with lots of lovely photographs of seductive libations, this book is a testament to the tenacity and vision of one of NYC’s great bartenders.  I would say “Mixologist”, but the author would probably take umbrage with that title.  In any case, Greg writes his cocktailian autobiography here through recipes which have permeated his consciousness over the years, and inspired altogether new creations.  His modus operandi is much the same as mine.  Start with a classic recipe, and then use it as the foundation to make something entirely new.  Many of his original recipes call for bespoke syrups, infusions and bitters, but he generously shares all the necessary information on how to recreate them at home.  The book is rounded out with a list of recommended spirits and a bit on mixing technique.  If nothing else, this book is a snapshot of how cocktails can rise above simply being a means of delivering alcohol to a thirsty customer.  GSN Rating: A-

indexMagic in a Shaker: A Year of Spirited Libations by Marvin Allen (Pelican Publishing)  I first met Marvin back in 2010 while my wife and I were visiting New Orleans and checking out the dozens of iconic bars in the French Quarter.  He was working on a slow afternoon behind the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone, and took the time to chat us up.  We learned a lot about the history of the bar as well as the locals who frequent it.  On subsequent visits over the years, he’s always been one of the most outgoing and professional bartenders I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.  So, it’s no surprise that he decided to compile a book of favored recipes.  The book is broken into chapters devoted to the months of the year and appropriate cocktails to enjoy in each.  Some insight or background is offered for most of the recipes, but there are very few photographs, and those that are included are in black & white. What makes this book especially noteworthy is the sense of history and locale.  Most of the drinks date prior to 1933 and many are local to New Orleans.   The book is very approachable and offers everyone a chance to taste the kind of drinks that Marvin would serve you as you lazily drank your way around the hotel’s rotating circular bar.  GSN Rating: B-

indexThe 12 Bottle Bar: A Dozen Bottles. Hundreds of Cocktails. A New Way to Drink. by David Solmonson and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson (Workman Publishing Company) A logical and persuasive argument that you need only a dozen bottles behind the bar to make enough cocktails to last you a lifetime.  Those twelve bottles may not be what you would expect however.  For instance, of all the styles of whiskey available, only rye is mentioned.  As well, tequila is missing entirely, but genever has a whole chapter.  What gives?  Well, without giving the whole premise away, the basic idea is to slowly build your bar with stock that will allow you to make drinks as they developed over the past few centuries.  Limited to only seven spirits, one liqueur, two vermouths and two styles of bitters, you will indeed have a collection that in many ways will exceed most typical bars around the country.  Lest you think this is all a rehash of other cocktail guides, there are plenty of new cocktails and recipes for ingredients to keep you busy for years.  There is a surprising amount of practical information here, despite the limitation on ingredients.  GSN Rating: A-

indexTiki Pop by Sven A. Kirsten (Taschen)  Whatever your feelings about tiki or “faux tropical” drinks, you have to admit that they carried more weight culturally than many other cocktail trends.  The exotic was everywhere in the late 1940’s through the 1960’s with popular Polynesian restaurants like Trader Vic’s, Don the Beachcomber’s and the Mai Kai and songs by Arthur Lyman and Martin Denny being played on top 40 radio. The very fact that there is an ongoing recognition and revival of tiki culture and beverages in 2014 bears testament to the appeal and longevity of drinks served in grotesque mugs with custom swizzle sticks.  Tiki Pop is Sven Kirsten’s latest testament to the endurance of what was originally a post WWII fad designed to appeal to ex-servicemen who had served in tropical climes.  This gigantic (read: heavy) coffee table book is a love letter to all things tiki.  If you are a fan of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s books, consider this the next logical step in your tropical adventure.  No cocktail recipes, but plenty of vintage photos of bars, mugs, glassware, swizzles and cocktail menus.  GSN Rating: A

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