The Long Island Iced Tea

The Long Island Iced Tea is a victim. A victim of it’s own fans… people who had no idea what to order at a bar so they got this and then they never ever changed their order again. Okay, it’s not quite so bad. It is a good drink, or rather, it can be a good drink, if your bartender actually takes the time to make it.

I’m just a little bit bitter because certain bars in Tempe make them so strong that college kids think that is what all Long Islands are like, then all the bartenders in Arizona have to repeatedly tell them “no, you’re not getting 6+ oz of liquor just because you chose that one particular drink. If you were, it wouldn’t be the same price as all the other drinks on the menu.”

It Just gets classier the longer you look

The Official “Original” Long Island


According to Wikipedia, a guy named Robert supposedly created this drink in 1972 as a contest entry. If we may get a little skeptical for a moment though, the primary source on this seems to be Roberts personal website which (though a worthy step back in time to when personal web-pages were a delightful kind of trash) gives absolutely no proof or even extra information whatsoever. Also, his last name is Butt. Also, the page is If I wasn’t specifically searching for Long Island and I came upon this, I would not click it.

Personally, I find it to be a not-particularly-inventive twist on a classic Sour. It doesn’t take that much creativity to go: “Gee, what if instead of Vodka alone, I did a little bit of four different spirits?” and then add a splash of Coke for color. I also don’t know what kind of Iced Tea these people are drinking that they think these two are indistinguishable and therefore very sneaky drinks.

That aside (and considering I have a well known distaste for arguing about who invented what and when), what is true is that the Long Island Iced Tea became popular enough to be an IBA Official Cocktail, in the category of Contemporary Classics, sometime in the 80s or 90s.

It has it all: Bad Clip Art, this guys dog, pictures of him shirtless, several different sizes and colors of font, poorly made examples of his own drink…

The official IBA Long Island Cocktail Recipe is as Follows:

First, you might notice that there is no Tea in a Long Island Iced Tea. Names can be deceiving. Trust no one.

Second, Lets break that recipe down (and Americanize it, dammit). 1.5 cl is Half an Ounce, which means this has 2 oz of real liquor. It also has half an ounce of Triple Sec, which I don’t consider real liquor on account of the sugar. Gomme Syrup is a very nice simple syrup alternative that gives a unique and wonderful mouthfeel to cocktails. Nobody bothers to use it in a Long Island Iced Tea. Fresh lemon juice is good and in the picture above they certainly used more than a dash of cola but whatever, that’s perfect.

A Usable Formula: The Long Island Iced Tea

  • 1 Part Gin (moderately strong, think Tanqueray)
  • 1 Part Vodka
  • 1 Part Tequila (silver, or unaged)
  • 1 Part Silver Rum (unaged, un-spiced)
  • 1 Part Triple Sec (don’t use Grand Marnier or Cointreau)
  • 2 Parts Simple Syrup (Make it at home, it’s easy)
  • 2 Parts Lemon Juice
  • Enough Cola to make it colored like Iced Tea

For most drinks, I would have given the recipe, not the formula, since I believe in balance and drinking in moderate (and easily measured) amounts. To me, 2 oz of liquor is a drink and I can remember making 3 drinks, therefore I know I had 6 oz of liquor and I can eat and hydrate and drink more accordingly.

The Long Island however, is a different kind of beast. For many, A “real” Long Island should have at least 6 oz of liquor, and they will not remember to count it as 3 drinks. This is my reminder to you reader, just because you can fit it in a cup, doesn’t mean it’s one drink.

A “Responsible” Long Island Recipe:

  • 1/2 Ounce Gin
  • 1/2 Ounce Vodka
  • 1/2 Ounce Silver Tequila
  • 1/2 Ounce Silver Rum
  • 1/2 Ounce Triple Sec
  • 1 Ounce Simple Syrup
  • 1 Ounce Lemon Juice
  • 1-2 Ounce Coke

This is the Long Island that you will get when you order at my bar or pretty much any non-dive bar.

The “Irresponsible” Long Island Recipe:

This is the one that you will get at Cue Club on Mill Ave, or in Vegas, or from a friends house:

  • 1.5 oz Gin
  • 1.5 oz Vodka
  • 1.5 oz Silver Tequila
  • 1.5 oz Silver Rum
  • 1.5 oz Triple Sec
  • Like, 8 Ounces Sweet and Sour Mix
  • Splash of Coke

This one is a whopping 6 ounces of Real Liquor… Drink responsibly guys, these are positively made to make you vomit. This is the one young (and some old) drinkers ask for, thinking they are going to pull one over on the bartender by getting 3x the liquor for the same price. That’s not how it works buddy.

Must be served in the classic at-home barware

Other Long Islands

As if that weren’t enough, there are also variations on the Long Island to contend with, usually where the Triple Sec is substituted out for some other (colorful) liqueur. The coke is also usually omitted to let the colorful liqueur really give it that extra *POW*. You can find all of these variations on my next post:

Different Types of Long Island

Published by Spirit Sirens

Head Mixologist and Class Coordinator at Lucidi Distilling Co. in Old Town Peoria, Arizona. In my free time I eat good foods, drink good drinks and make mead with my brother. Soon to be on YouTube with Lucidi Distilling Co. making drinks and talking history and under Spirit Sirens, where myself and my partner Mariah talk about women in the alcohol industry and our experiences!

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