The Screwdriver is a classic drink that has been designated an International Bartender Association official cocktail. The history of the Screwdriver is somewhat debatable, even though mention of it in literature goes back to 1949, when vodka was first gaining traction in the United States.
Some claim that the drink was first popularized by American aviators. Another origin story claims that it was made popular by American oil workers in the Persian Gulf, who would secretly dose their OJ with vodka. Supposedly, they dubbed the drink the Screwdriver because they mixed it first with a screwdriver when a spoon was not available.
Questionable origin stories aside, it’s easy to imagine drinkers building this simple, two-ingredient beverage, so it’s possible the drink appeared in multiple places around the same time. After all, the Mimosa (sparkling wine and orange juice) had already been in rotation for a couple of decades by then, and it’s not a far stretch from sparkling wine to vodka.
The beauty of the Screwdriver lies in the cocktail’s simplicity and the drink’s adoption as a morning eye-opener. Combining orange juice and vodka in a highball glass is about as easy as a cocktail gets and creates a base that’s ripe for experimentation, as witnessed by later inventions like the Harvey Wallbanger and Fuzzy Navel.
Make this version of the classic Screwdriver next time you’re hosting a brunch or just need a pick-me-up, and rediscover why this drink is an essential part of any cocktail drinker’s toolkit.
1 1/2 ounces vodka
Orange juice, freshly squeezed, to top
Fill a highball glass with ice, then add the vodka.
Top with the orange juice.
Harvey Wallbanger: Adds a float of Galliano, an Italian liqueur
Fuzzy Navel: Swaps out the vodka in favor of peach schnapps for a less-potent, fruitier cocktail
Summerthyme Screwdriver: Updates the classic with fresh thyme, bittersweet Aperol and club soda