Screwdriver – Original Recipe & History

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Course: DrinksCuisine: American






Total time



Learn how to make a classic 1940s Screwdriver.


  • 2 oz 2 Vodka

  • 2 oz 2 Orange Juice


  • Technique: Saxe Soda Shake
  • Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker.
  • Add one medium or two small ice cubes to the cocktail shaker and shake until the ice fully melts.
  • Without a strainer, pour the chilled and aerated drink into a glass.


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The History Of The Screwdriver.

The screwdriver has two familiar origin stories, and both are probably wrong. One story I have read is that laborers or oil rig workers used to use screwdrivers to stir their morning drink long ago, and another claims US marines invented it in WWII. There is no evidence to back those ideas up, and counter to those ideas is that vodka was rarely used in cocktails before the invention of the Moscow mule in 1941. It’s doubtful that US soldiers were mixing vodka cocktails in the early 40s and even less likely that oil rig workers were mixing with it.

In David Embury’s 1948 book “The Fine Art Of Mixing” he claims the screwdriver is just the orange blossom cocktail with vodka instead of gin. This makes sense because, after the popularity of the Moscow mule, many bartenders tried finding other drinks that could be made with vodka other than the Moscow mule or Bloody Mary. An easy solution was to replace gin with vodka. The iconic vodka martini was invented around this time, and David Embury printed in his vodka section a list of gin cocktails that sometimes substitute vodka. He concluded the vodka section by saying he has no idea why anyone would want to replace gin for vodka as it is a flavorless dull spirit that adds nothing to a drink. I can easily see someone simply replacing the gin for vodka in orange blossom and giving it a funky name like the screwdriver.

If the screwdriver truly is just an orange blossom with vodka, then his recipe is not the common one used today. Unfortunately, he does not provide a direct recipe but says to make an orange blossom with vodka instead of gin. The classic orange blossom recipe is 1:1 orange juice and gin shaken in a shaker and strained into a cocktail glass. Typically it’s measured out to 2 oz gin to 2 oz orange juice. The most common recipe used today is a 1:3 Vodka to orange juice highball cocktail. I have never liked the screwdriver and find it a pointless cocktail. It just tastes like rotten orange juice to me. I find David Embury’s 1940s recipe tastes better than the present-day recipe but is still dull. He even says that the orange blossom, and subsequently the screwdriver, is a stupid drink in his book.

The Correct Ratio For A Screwdriver.

The correct ratio for a screwdriver is 1:3 vodka to orange juice if you are making the standard recipe used today. You can adjust these to taste, but for a standard screwdriver, it should be mixed 1:3. Most screwdrivers are larger than 4 oz, so pour 2 oz of vodka and add 6 oz of orange juice into a highball with ice and stir the drink. This maintains the 1:3 ratio but makes a more reasonably sized screwdriver.

Using David Embury’s classic 1940s screwdriver recipe, the ratio is 1:1. His recipe is prepared entirely different, though. This 1940s recipe is 2 oz of vodka and orange juice shaken in a shaker with ice and strained into a cocktail glass.

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