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There are probably few places you could go in the world where the bartender did not know how to mix you an orange screwdriver. The simple ingredients and the no-fuss recipe have kept it a classic choice for all of us cocktail lovers.
History of the Screwdriver
Simply put, the orange screwdriver is a shot of vodka, mixed with orange juice, and served over ice.
The origin of this drink is believed to have been in the mid-twentieth century. As the story goes, blue collar workers in the oil rigging industry were not satisfied with coffee alone and needed an extra pick-me-up in their morning beverage.
Allegedly, while at work, they would spike their breakfast orange juice with vodka. They did not have spoons or stirring utensils on site, so they used their screwdrivers to mix the drink. This is how the humble orange vodka cocktail got its namesake.
What Goes Into a Screwdriver?
There are two critical ingredients to this cocktail: vodka, and orange juice. Many of you may be aware that liquors in the same family will significantly vary in flavour. This certainly applies to the whole vodka family. Many people shy away from this liquor due to the intense nail-polish-remover taste which is prevalent in lower quality vodkas. Don’t worry, we will convert you yet!
An important rule in alcohol distillation to recognize is the more distilled a liquor, the smoother it will taste. You do not need to buy a top shelf vodka to enjoy a smooth taste, there are mid-range options which are less harsh on the palate. Mid-range vodka is perfectly acceptable for this cocktail, especially since it will be mixed with orange juice.
Although we prefer a “regular” vodka (like Tito’s) for screwdrivers, there are a lot of options to play with to alter the flavour of your orange screwdriver. Choosing a flavored vodka is an easy way to have an impact on the end flavour of your cocktail. If you enjoy these added layers in a drink, consider which flavors would pair best with citrus. Here are some popular options which are typically paired with orange: vanilla, lemon, raspberry, peppermint in the holiday season.
An optional ingredient that you could add is sparkling water. This is not a standard ingredient for this cocktail, but it will elevate the drink. Let’s be honest, who would refuse a bit of bubbly in their cocktail?
Another benefit of adding sparkling water is to dilute the orange juice. This will prevent the sweetness from overwhelming the cocktail. Sweet cocktails have their place, this cocktail does not have to be it!
A garnish is not required for this beverage, but it is common for a bar to add a slice of orange on the rim. If you are serving this drink to guests you can add a garnish to increase the wow factor of the cocktail, but it is entirely optional.
Helpful Tips for Making the Cocktail
Vodka is the smoothest when it is kept ice cold. Consider keeping your opened bottles in the freezer.
Pulp free fruit juice is typically a superior choice for cocktails. It is a personal preference, but consider that your guests probably will not want to pick pulp out of their teeth at your party.
Add generous portions of ice to ensure the drink stays chilled for as long as possible. There are so many different ice cube molds available, consider buying something fun and different to use in your cocktails.
The most important tip would be to include a stir stick! Vodka is a high density liquid, meaning it tends to sink to the bottom of the glass. If left unstirred, the final half of this beverage will likely be a mouthful of vodka. This may be welcomed if you are having a tough day and need a stiff drink, but it may not be what you had planned if you wanted to sit down and peacefully enjoy your cocktail.
If you do add a garnish, consider doing something unique. It’s hard to add a fresh spin on a classic drink, but it can be done if you let your creativity loose! Something that you may want to try is making your own orange twists.
Do this by peeling off a long thin strip of an orange peel. Wrap the peel around a wooden pencil, so it looks like a spiral, and freeze the strip. After half an hour it should be frozen, and you can slide the fun spiral into your drink for a really special garnish.
More Fun Facts on the Orange Screwdriver
There are many variations to an orange screwdriver. Often times the orange juice remains, but the type of alcohol is exchanged for different liquors. **Warning: sexual innuendos ahead**
- A “slow orange screw” is made by replacing the vodka with sloe gin. This liquor is fruity in flavour, due to the sloe fruits being mixed with the gin. Overall the beverage is pinky in color, and will appeal to gin lovers.
- The “slow comfortable screw up against a wall” has a few more modifications. It replaces the vodka with sloe gin, southern comfort, and galliano. The flavors are more fruity overall, and the drink itself is certainly more boozy.
- A “slow comfortable screw up against a wall in Mexico” is a probably the furthest from the original orange screwdriver recipe. It replaces vodka with tequila and peach schnapps. This is a tropical, tangy cocktail that benefits from having a lot of ice.
- My personal favorite, solely based on the name and not the ingredients, would be a “cordless screwdriver”. It is a shot of vodka, serve with ice, and a slice of orange. No actual fruit juice is used in this recipe. This drink is probably best suited for a hard-core vodka lover, who am I kidding, this drink is made for me.
The orange screwdriver had humble beginnings, and blew up to be an internationally recognized drink. No matter where you are, there is always a vodka-orange waiting at the local bar with your name on it. Cheers!
Screwdriver Drink Recipe
- 2 oz vodka (we like Titos or Grey Goose)
- 2.5 oz orange juice
- 2.5 oz sparkling water
- 1 handful ice cubes
If You Want to Omit the Sparkling Water
- 2 oz vodka
- 5 oz orange juice
- 1 handful ice cubes
- Add ice to tumbler first. Add vodka and orange juice next
- Garnish with slice of orange or homemade orange twists