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Long Island Iced Tea: The One-Way Ticket.

The Recipe:

Finding a recipe for a Long Island Iced Tea is both easy and challenging. Everyone has an idea about how it should be made but if we want to be traditional we look to the International Bartenders Association who has set the bar on what a Long Island Iced tea has to contain and the way that it is made. This video while it doesn’t meet the IBA recipe shows you another way to make a long island iced tea. The picture above illustrates the order and amount of each alcohol as the IBA dictates it should be made, but because the numbers are a little bit hard to read here is the recipe as text:

Served in a highball glass

1.5 oz Vodka

1.5 oz Tequila

1.5 oz White Rum

1.5 oz Cointreau

1.5 oz Gin

1.75 oz Lemon juice

1.75 oz Gomme Syrup

Dash of Cola

 Add all ingredients into highball glass filled with ice. Stir gently. Garnish with lemon spiral. Serve with straw.

Flavor Profile:

A long Island Iced Tea in its most classic recipe is going to taste a bit like tea, but most people actually say that it taste more like and Arnold Palmer. The reason for this is because of the sour mix that reminds people of lemonade. However let’s look at what a “specialist” has to say…

“Why is it that this strange combination of spirits and soda actually tastes very similar to iced tea? We could tell you that it’s because the juniper in the gin reacts with the molasses in the rum, creating a flavor that combines with the agave in the tequila that implodes with the neutral characteristics of the vodka, resulting in a chemical compound that, when looked at under a microscope, resembles the molecules found in tea leaves grown in Sri Lanka (on the south slopes, of course), but that would serve no purpose at all. The fact is, for one strange reason or another, this weird mixture of ingredients tastes like iced tea. And in that regard, it’s a dangerous mix.”   ~Cocktail specialists Gary and Mardee Haidin Regan


While this quote may be true one of the most beautiful things about the Long Island Iced Tea is that for every flavor of real tea out in the world today, there is a Long Island Iced Tea spinoff or venation of it, each is going to taste and look different than the one before it does.  This is when we run into the challenge when starting to look for recipes. With the number of different alcohol’s already used in this drink taking anyone of them out and adding another in its place to fit our own individual taste makes a spinoff. It’s not just the alcohol but also the sweet and sour mix and even the cola can be removed and changed to create a “new” beverage. Some of the most common spinoffs are:

  • Alaskan Iced Tea: cola is substituted with blue Curaçao
  • Beverly Hills Iced Tea: cola is substituted with Champagne
  • Black Opal – Seattle, WA/Portland, OR: cola is substituted with lime soda, add Chambord.
  • Adios Motherfucker or Electric Iced Tea or Bondi Iceberg: triple sec is substituted with blue Curaçao and cola with Sprite
  • California Iced Tea: cola is substituted with orange juice
  • Clean Tea: Sweet and Sour and Cola is substituted with lemon-lime soda
  • Flint, Michigan Iced Tea: Cola is substituted with Vernor’s Ginger Ale.
  • Grateful Dead: Cola is substituted with Chambord raspberry liquor or Razzmatazz
  • Harvard Iced Tea: cola is substituted with Champagne, tequila is substituted with Gin
  • Langøyene iste: tequila is substituted with Norwegian akvavit
  • Lesbos Iced Tea: cola is substituted with ouzo and Canadian whiskey.
  • Long Beach Iced Tea: cola is substituted with cranberry juice
  • Iced Tea Reno Style: drink is made in cooler and chilled with snow from a Snowmageddon, specifically the February 5–6, 2010 North American blizzard.
  • Long Island Parkway: cola is substituted with a Parkway.
  • Jersey Tea:cola is substituted with a shot of Jägermeister.
    • In California, this drink is commonly called a Darth Vader.

    Peach Long Island: tequila is substituted with peach schnapps
    Pittsburgh Tea: tequila is substituted with Wild Turkey
    Tennessee Iced Tea: tequila is substituted with Jack Daniel’s
    Texas Tea: gin is substituted with tequila.
    Tokyo Iced Tea: triple sec is substituted with Midori and cola with lemon-lime soda


The history of the Long Island Iced Tea is just as hard to come to a consensus on. It is safe to say that no-one knows for sure who, when, where or how Long Island Ice Tea was invented.  “Some say it was during the 50’s by proper Long Island house wives mixing a little from each bottle in the liquor cabinet. Since the result looked like ice tea, that’s what everyone thought they were drinking.”[1] Anyone could have been doing the same thing all around the world and just not called it a Long Island Iced Tea, think about how people mix sodas at the drinking fountains today.

“Others claim it was created during prohibition when bartenders were trying to disguise alcoholic drinks to avoid the law.”[2] This apparently was a common practice at the time and since ingenuity knows no bounds I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that is indeed how this drink came to be. Although the generally accepted story is that it was invented in 1972 by a bartender at the Oak Beach Inn in the Hamptons named Robert “Rosebud” Butt. If you go the Long Island Iced Tea website you can see that they have the following claim made by “Rosebud” himself:

“ The world famous Long Island Iced Tea was first invented in  1972 by me, Robert Butt, while I was tending bar at the infamous Oak Beach Inn.  Nicknamed “Rosebud” by OBI owner Bob Matherson, I participated in a Cocktail creating contest.  Triple Sec had to be included, and the bottles started flying.  My concoction was an immediate hit and quickly became the house drink at the OBI.  By the mid-1970’s, every bar on LI was serving up this innocent looking cocktail, and by the 1980’s it was known the world over.  Though it looks like the Iced Tea your Mom serves on a summer day, it is actually a combination of 5 different alcohols, with a splash of Coke.  Mention Long Island Iced Tea at a party, and almost everyone has a story to tell….”[3]

The Oak Beach Inn was bought in 1969 by Robert Matherson. What was then a waterfront barrier island restaurant he converted it into an enormously popular and controversial nightclub. He later opened four more OBI night clubs and named them according to their geographic location. “The OBI North was in Smithtown, the OBI East near the Shinnecock Canal en route to The Hamptons, and two OBI West locations in Island Park, New York.”[4] All five clubs were located on Long Island and were wildly successful for many years, bringing folks in from all over Long Island, New York City, Westchester, southern Connecticut and New Jersey. “One of the OBI West locations burned down after only a couple of years of packing in thousands on the weekends. Arson involving organized crime figures referred to in the movie “Goodfellas” was alleged but never substantiated.”4 Over the years, the OBI was involved in many disputes with the local community over issues such as noise, parking and traffic. Finally, in 1999, Matherson sold the property and moved to Key West, Florida to open a new club of the same name. The original property was torn down in 2003.

                Whoever created the Long Island Iced tea is lost to history and we may honestly never know who deserves credit for this fantastic beverage that makes the best aspects of 5 different distilled spirits and brings them into harmony. The whole idea behind tea in the first place was to bring balance and harmony to one self’s.  The one thing that can be said with 100% confidence is that no version of a Long Island Iced Tea is made with actual tea. You could say that this beverage embodies the soul of tea while packing a punch that will put most people down for the count as easy as one, two, three.

Works Cited

“Casa Coctel.” Casa Coctel. Web. 15 May 2012. <http://www.casacoctel.com/index.php?option=com_content&gt;.

“Home.” Home. Web. 15 May 2012. <http://www.liicetea.com/&gt;.

“How To Make a Long Island Iced Tea.” YouTube. YouTube, 07 Feb. 2008. Web. 15 May 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BawlBaz5Yjo&gt;.

“Long Island Ice Tea.” Long Island Ice Tea. Web. 15 May 2012. <http://www.loving-long-island.com/long-island-ice-tea.html&gt;.

“LONG ISLAND ICED TEA (highball Glass ).” IBA: Long Island Iced Tea. Web. 15 May 2012. <http://web.archive.org/web/20091016071512/http://www.iba-world.org/english/cocktails/longislandtea.php&gt;.

“Long Island Iced Tea.” The Webtender Wiki -. Web. 15 May 2012. <http://wiki.webtender.com/wiki/Long_Island_Iced_Tea&gt;.

[1] Loving-Long_ Island

[2] Casa Coctel.”

[3] Long Island Iced Tea

[4] Wiki


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