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Ocean City’s Harborside Bar: Home of the Orange Crush, summer’s unofficial drink

“It was on a cold, winter night. The bar got really slow. They were watching some football and just started messing around with the vodka. Next thing you know, the Orange Crush came out,” said Phillip Lewis, a bartender and manager at Harborside. “It’s definitely the drink of the summer, especially in Ocean City.” (WTOP/John Domen)

WASHINGTON — The unofficial drink of summer was actually invented on a winter night. But that’s just a minor footnote in the history of the Orange Crush, one of the most popular drinks you’ll find anywhere now, whether you are in a beach bar or a crab shack closer to home.

Lots of places call themselves the “Home of the Orange Crush” but generally it’s the Harborside Bar and Grill in West Ocean City, Maryland, that gets the credit for actually inventing the drink back in 1995.

“It was on a cold, winter night. The bar got really slow. They were watching some football and just started messing around with the vodka,” said Phillip Lewis, a bartender and manager at Harborside.

“Next thing you know, the Orange Crush came out,” he said.

“It’s definitely the drink of the summer, especially in Ocean City.”

It’s not complicated to make. Lewis can start with an empty glass and have your crush ready to drink in less than a minute. But a bit more efforts makes the difference in the end.

“We use Smirnoff Orange vodka and we use triple sec — a shot of each, a shot and a half of each. Fresh squeeze some O.J. into it, add a little bit of Sprite,” says Lewis. “It’s that simple.”

The key ingredient is the orange, of course.

“Fresh squeezed Florida oranges,” emphasized Lewis.

And Harborside itself contributes to the Crush success.

“And it’s got to be the atmosphere here. We’re just on the water and laid back.”

On a typical weekend day during the summer, Lewis said Harborside serves “easily over 1,000 Crushes in a day.”

Back in 1995 when bartenders were experimenting with the novel drink, they created a frozen Orange Crush and an Orange Crush that came on the rocks.

“This (on the rocks) is just the one that took off. Everyone loved it,” said Lewis.

While the Orange Crush is the original, spinoffs include crushes made with grapefruit and lemons too.



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