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Screwdriver Drink

by victor

Screwdriver drink in a high ball glass on a table with a bottle of vodka on the background.

How hard is it to mess up a screwdriver drink?  It’s not that hard actually. You may ask, what’s so hard about mixing two freaking ingredients and ice together, dude? Are you nuts? I’ve been making screwdrivers all my (hopefully just adult) life and it’s dead easy. Well, you may be right. Maybe I am right too. Let me explain.

You see, I love screwdriver cocktails for their simplicity and super refreshing taste, and make them more often than any other cocktail. I would usually use no precise recipe and I would randomly pour vodka and orange juice over ice in a glass. But that’s where the problem lies – the ratios. Sometimes my drink would taste freaking awesome, while sometimes it would just plain suck and I would have to go back and fix it.

The ingredients matter too. Better tasting vodka and freshly squeezed orange juice will make your cocktail that much better. Do you see my point? Have you noticed the same challenges too?  If so, read on and hopefully, you will find some valuable tips for making the best tasting screwdriver drink you’ve ever had, every single time.

Not all highball glasses are created equal

Screwdriver drinks are traditionally served in highball glasses. According to Drinks Mixer and Wikipedia, a highball glass is a glass tumbler that can contain 8 to 12 liquid ounces. OK, that’s good to know. Serious Eats Drinks states that highball glasses range from 10 to 16 liquid ounces. Wait, what? Turns out that of the chimney style glasses, there are three types – Delmonico (5-8 oz), highball (8-12 oz) and Collins (12-16 oz). They all look very similar but vary in size.

So, dude, why are you even talking about glasses? Why does it matter? I’ll tell you why. If you measure each ingredient, you can pour them in a coffee mug for all I care and still have an awesome drink. But what if you have a recipe like this:

Recipe 1 – a classic Screwdriver drink

  • 4 parts vodka
  • Fresh orange juice
  • Orange slice

Directions

Fill a chilled highball glass with ice cubes. Pour vodka and orange juice over the ice. Stir and garnish with an orange slice.

Source: my old, trusty 1994 The New York Bartender’s Guide.

Do you now see the problem? Even if you use the correct highball glass, there still will be a 4 oz difference in overall liquid depending on which size you get. An extra 4 oz of orange juice will make a huge difference in taste.

Buying all the different cocktail glasses for home is prohibitively expensive so we tend to use what we have. My highball glass is actually a 16-oz Collins glass which was sold as a highball glass. I was clueless at the time. The screwdriver recipe above results in an even more diluted drink when making the recipe above in it. I also tend to use whatever glass I grab first. Bad idea!

So, here is the Tip #1always measure your ingredients or stick to the same glass if the ratios give you the results you like.

So, if you were to measure the amount of orange juice, how much would you need for a screwdriver cocktail? Here is a great starter recipe:

Recipe 2 – a Screwdriver drink with measured orange juice

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 4-6 ounces of fresh orange juice
  • Orange slice

Directions

Pour the vodka and orange juice into an ice-filled highball glass, and stir. Stir and garnish with the orange slice.

Source: The Ultimate Bar Book: The Comprehensive Guide to Over 1,000 Cocktails

 

Vodka to orange juice ratios in a screwdriver

The recipe I quoted above should only be used as a guide. Sure, it tastes pretty damn good but it can be even better. Do you know why? Because we are all different and have different tastes. What tastes good to me may not taste good to you. Besides, our tastes change over time. In my younger years, we drank screwdriver cocktails to get drunk and have fun. My drinks would be 50/50 ratio of vodka to juice. They tasted strong and hit you quick and hard. That was the idea. My buddies and I loved it.

Recipe 3 – a quick and hard hit Screwdriver drink

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 2 ounces of fresh orange juice
  • Orange slice (optional)

Directions

Fill an 8-oz highball glass with ice to the top. Pour the vodka and orange juice and stir. Garnish with the orange slice if you want, but really, who cares about that if all you want is to get drunk. If you are using a 10-oz glass, increase vodka and OJ to 3 ounces each.

Nowadays, I still favor a stronger drink but with less vodka than in a 50/50 version. I also add a tablespoon of lime or lemon juice to balance the sweetness of orange juice with some acidity. One time it felt like my screwdriver drink was a little too sweet for my liking and I added a little bit of lime juice to it. Holly chit! This tastes really good, I thought. This little tweak stuck and is now a part of my regular recipe.

Recipe 4 – a stronger Screwdriver with a splash of lime

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 3 ounces fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (or lemon juice)
  • Orange slice (optional)

Directions

Fill a 10-12 ounce highball glass with ice to the top. Pour the vodka and orange juice and stir. Add the lime juice. Garnish with an orange slice if you want, but I never do when making the drink for myself.

Tip #2 – use a splash of lime or lemon juice to balance out the orange sweetness.

Tip #3 – experiment with vodka to OJ rations until you find what you like the best.

Screwdriver drink variations

If you feel a little tired of the good ol’ classic screwdriver recipes, there are a few variations to try. Use them as is or tweak them to come up with your own variations.

Recipe 5 – Slow (Sloe) Comfortable Screwdriver

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1/2 oz Sloe gin
  • 1/2 oz Southern Comfort
  • 4-6 ounces of fresh orange juice
  • Orange slice

Directions

Pour the vodka, gin, Southern Comfort and orange juice into an ice-filled highball glass, and stir. Stir and garnish with the orange slice.

Source: The Ultimate Bar Book: The Comprehensive Guide to Over 1,000 Cocktails

Recipe 6 – Slow (Sloe) Screwdriver

  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 1 ounce Sloe gin
  • 5 ounces of fresh orange juice
  • Orange slice

Directions

Pour the vodka, gin and orange juice into an ice-filled highball glass, and stir. Stir and garnish with the orange slice.

Source: Chowhound

Recipe 7 – Cordless Screwdriver

  • 1 ounce freezer-chilled vodka
  • Orange wedge
  • Sugar

Directions

Coat the orange wedge with sugar. Pour the vodka into a chilled shot glass, gulp it down, and bite into the sugar-coated orange wedge.

Source: The Ultimate Bar Book: The Comprehensive Guide to Over 1,000 Cocktails

Recipe 8 – Melon Ball

  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 1 ounce Midori melon liqueur
  • 5 ounces of fresh orange juice
  • A small slice of honeydew melon

Directions

Pour the vodka, Midori melon liqueur, and orange juice into an ice-filled highball glass, and stir. Stir and garnish with the slice of honeydew melon.

Source: Chowhound

Recipe 9 – Southern Screw

  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 1 ounce Southern Comfort
  • 5 ounces of fresh orange juice
  • Orange slice

Directions

Pour the vodka, Southern Comfort and orange juice into an ice-filled highball glass, and stir. Stir and garnish with the orange slice.

Source: Chowhound

If you want to add depth and complexity to your cocktail, try this excellent recipe offered by Epicurious.

Recipe 10 – Screwdriver with Angostura Bitters

  • 1 1/2 ounces vodka
  • 3 ounces of fresh orange juice
  • 3-4 ice cubes
  • Dash Angostura bitters

Directions

Add vodka and orange juice to a rocks glass filled with ice. Stir to chill and garnish with a dash of bitters.

Recipe 11 – Blood Orange Screwdriver

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 4 ounces blood orange juice
  • 2 ounces fresh orange juice

Directions

Add the orange juices and vodka to a highball glass filled with ice. Stir and serve.

Source: Kitchen Treaty

Recipe 12 – Sloe Comfortable Screw Against the Wall

(‘The Wall’ refers to the Harvey Wallbanger, which Galliano is famous for)

  • 1 1/2 ounces vodka
  • 1 1/2 ounces Southern Comfort
  • 3 ounces of fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 ounce Sloe gin
  • 1/2 ounce Galliano L’Autentico liqueur
  • Orange slice

Directions

Pour the vodka, Southern Comfort and orange juice into an ice-filled Collins glass, and stir. Slowly pour the Sloe gin over the back of the spoon and on top of the drink. Repeat the same with Galliano. Garnish with an orange slice and serve.

 

A few words about screwdriver drink ingredients

It goes without saying, but I will say it again – high-quality ingredients make for a high-quality cocktail. Freshly squeezed orange juice is the best choice. It’s not always practical or convenient to use freshly squeezed OJ but if you have the option to use it, go for it. It will make a noticeable difference. Make sure that the OJ is without pulp, of course.

Quality vodka is another factor that defines a good screwdriver cocktail. If possible, go for the good stuff. Absolute, Grey Goose, Stolichnaya are all good choices. There are others too. You want a smooth and clean taste. Your cocktail will taste better and there will be no hangover the next day. It’s the impurities in vodka that cause bad hangovers.

Tip # 4 – use freshly squeezed orange juice if possible and go for premium vodka.

 

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1 comments

Guy June 12, 2019 - 5:17 am

I have been making mine by eyeballing the quantities with results varying from drink to drink. I’ll be paying more attention to quantities going forward.

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