The International Bartender Association has deemed the classic Screwdriver as an official cocktail. Here’s a brief history and a guide to making them.
Vodka started to become popular in the US in 1949. There are even mentions of this cocktail back then, but the exact history is up for debate. It is claimed that American aviators were among the first to popularize it. It is also claimed that American oil workers in the Persian Gulf would add secret vodka into their OJs. The name is said to come from them tools to mix their drinks, as no spoon was available.
An easy, two-ingredient cocktail, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the drink started being made in several places at roughly the same sort of time. Mixing sparkling wine, and orange juice to create a Mimosa had already been around twenty years by this stage, and it’s an easy swap from wine to vodka.
The simplicity of this drink is a huge part of its appeal, and it was even adopted as an eye-opener for those particularly tough mornings. There are few cocktails so easy to make as this, with just a highball glass, vodka, and orange juice and it spurred further creativity as a base for others: like the Fuzzy Navel and the Harvey Wallbanger. An essential part of every cocktail drinker’s repertoire, this classic is perfect as a pick-me-up or at brunch.
The Acid Test
Orange juice, particularly when it’s freshly squeezed, brings a natural acidity to the flavor. This can be too much for some palates. One solution to this is to balance the acidity with sweetness. Simple syrup is the perfect addition and it does not impact the balance of flavors, but just adds a lightness to the cocktail.
If the acidity of the orange juice needs a refreshing twist, you can add soda to the top of this mix. Club soda is the perfect addition for an extra sensation with the bubbles too. Ginger ale also adds a wonderful lightness as a topper, making it great for warm summer days.
There is no need to use the best available vodka for this cocktail. If you’re in a bar, whatever the house vodka is will be sufficient. This also means you’re saving some money, which can make it taste even more delicious. Don’t stoop to using the cheapest vodka available, though. As it’s the only liquor in the drink, inexpensive is good, but good quality is still important.
This classic cocktail is simple and delicious and ideal for sharing with friends over brunch and easy to make. It’s obvious why this it has been such a staple for so many decades and will surely be with us for many more to come.