The Long Island Iced Tea’s popularity transcends age and culture. As a result, it’s probably among the first cocktails many newly-minted 21 year olds know to order the first time their elbows legally touch a bar. And with good reason—it’s tasty, unpretentious, and definitely greases the wheels on the party wagon.
Like all legendary cocktails, the Long Island Iced Tea’s history is unclear. The most popular story credits bartender Robert Butt with creating the drink for a cocktail contest in the 1970s Long Island, New York. Yet another account goes back to prohibition, where Charles “Old Man” Bishop invented the cocktail in the Long Island area of Kingsport, Tennessee. Whatever the case, this powerful cocktail managed to ascend to legendary status over the years, garnering enthusiasts all over the world.
With such a hilarious mix of seemingly unrelated ingredients, the Long Island Iced Tea sounds more like a dare than a drink. When properly made however, this crazy combination has a sweet earthy cola flavor with a bright acidic zip.
Recipes for the Long Island Iced Tea can vary by region, bar, or even individual bartender. Consequently, entire books could be (and have been) written listing what are probably thousands of different recipes. A few notable versions are listed below, though even these are subject to debate.
- There is some disagreement whether tequila should be included, as some bartenders claim this, along with adding whiskey, technically becomes a Texas Tea.
- Kingsport, Tennessee lays claim to the “original” Long Island Iced Tea, the recipe for which involves the addition of whiskey and maple syrup (see above).
- A Long Beach Iced Tea tops with cranberry juice instead of Coca-Cola.
- A Blue Long Island swaps triple sec for blue curaçao and fills with lemon/lime soda instead of Coca-Cola. This drink is also referred to as an Electric Iced Tea, or AMF (an abbreviation of Adios Mother… well, you get the idea).
- Replace triple sec with Chambord and top with lemon/lime soda instead of Coca-Cola for a Grateful Dead.
- Add an additional ½ oz of melon liqueur (like Midori) and top with lemon/lime soda instead of Coca-Cola for a Tokyo Tea.
- For a less boozy version, reduce the liquor amounts to ¼ oz each.
Though usually associated with a young, high-energy party atmosphere, there’s no rule saying Long Island Iced Tea can’t be enjoyed while relaxing as well. Keep in mind, these cocktails are labor-intensive and require lots of ingredients. If planning to serve Long Island Iced Teas at your next event, we recommend either hiring a bartender or preparing a batch ahead of time. Be careful however—the Long Island’s sweet drinkability and high alcohol content can turn guests a little unruly in an alarmingly short time.
- Large, high-intensity events: especially if hosted at a large venue that can accomodate bartenders.
- Hosting parties: the Long Island Iced Tea is appropriate for casual parties, though don’t be surprised if they get a little boisterous. Large batches (minus the soda) may be prepared ahead of time so you’re not stuck behind the bar all night.
- Outdoor activities: Golf outings, cookouts, by the pool, or just relaxing on the porch.
The Long Island Iced Tea is practically designed to get people wasted, so be extra-vigilant and always enjoy responsibly!
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