How Did The Screwdriver Get Its Name?

As with many of the cocktails, you can expect at least 2 stories of how a drink was invented.

The Screwdriver is no different.

It is apparently one of the first vodka cocktails invented.

Fresh OJ, vermouth and gin
Freshly squeezed OJ makes a wonderful difference!

Prohibition caused the production of some vile tasting homemade alcohol so bartenders began adding fruit juice to spirits. Thus, the birth of cocktails.

We do know that the Screwdriver has been around since at least 1949 when Time Magazine published this quote on October 24:

“In the dimly lighted bar of the sleek Park Hotel, Turkish intelligence agents mingle with American engineers and Balkan refugees, drinking the latest Yankee concoction of vodka and orange juice, called a ‘screwdriver.”

Which Park Hotel do they speak of? India? Seems they’ve only been around since the 1960’s. Unless it was rebuilt.

Where did this madness start?

  1. Was it during World War II when soldiers snuck vodka into their morning OJ?
  2. Or when Mid-20th-Century oil workers in the Persian Gulf started mixing the same ingredients after a very long day? Lacking utensils to stir this mixture, they reached for the closest item that would work….a screwdriver.
  3. Perhaps it was the facial expression of someone drinking the vile tasting homemade vodka, during the Prohibition-era, that prompted the idea. Mixed with the need to disguise any talk of alcohol, the code word, Screwdriver, was put into use to mislead authorities. So that takes us to the 1920’s and 30’s before WWII and certainly before mid-Century!

Is it just me, or do they all seem like lame stories?

But, hey, what about this quote from Journalism quarterly, Volume 44 in 1938…. “And answered it “The famous Smirnoff Screwdriver”, Just pour a jigger of smirnoff vodka over ice cubes, fill glass with orange juice and serve.”

Could this GET any more confusing?

Then, in 1944, in Volume 23 of Newsweek, this was published:  “A Screwdriver —a half-orange-juice and half-vodka drink popularized by interned American aviators—costs a dollar including the customary barman’s tip.”

Smirnoff’s “Screwdriver” Campaign began in 1937 so that blows pretty much all of these theories out of the water, so to speak. Except for maybe #3.

However, I don’t see the Smirnoff website making any claims of inventing the drink.

That being said, let’s go with #2! It’s the earliest version that I can find. Know of an earlier story? I’d love to hear it!

Happy National Screwdriver Day!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe just for fun on December 14, 2017.


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