Fantastic Recipe: Long Island Iced Tea Recipe

Fantastic Recipe: Long Island Iced Tea Recipe

The Long Island iced tea is a classic cocktail that originated in Long Island, New York in the 1970s. It’s a refreshing drink made with five different spirits – vodka, rum, tequila, gin, and triple sec – mixed with sweet and sour mix and a splash of cola. This powerful cocktail packs quite a punch despite its innocent iced tea appearance. In this article, we’ll explore the history of Long Island iced tea and provide a recipe with tips for making the perfect Long Island iced tea at home.

History of the Long Island Iced Tea

The Long Island iced tea was invented in the 1970s at the Oak Beach Inn in Hampton Bays, Long Island. Bartender Robert “Rosebud” Butt claims to have perfected the recipe in 1972 as a way to mask the alcohol taste for himself and his triple-sec-loving friends. The story goes that he mixed equal parts vodka, gin, rum, triple sec, and a splash of cola to make it look like an innocent iced tea.

Long Island Iced Tea

It became hugely popular with guests who didn’t realize how strong it was due to the disguise. The recipe quickly spread across Long Island bars and then the rest of the country, cementing its place as a classic cocktail. While the exact origins are disputed, the Oak Beach Inn is credited with popularizing this iconic drink.

Ingredients Needed

To make a Long Island iced tea at home, you’ll need the following ingredients: vodka, white rum, tequila, gin, triple sec, sweet and sour mix, cola, and a lime wedge for garnish. Specifically, you’ll need 1/2 cup vodka as the base spirit that provides a neutral flavor. Go with a mid-range vodka, not the cheapest option. For depth of flavor, use 1/2 cup of light or silver rum. The key element that gives the drink its “south of the border” flavor is 1/2 cup of silver tequila. 

For herbal juniper notes, have 1/2 cup of a London dry gin like Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire on hand. An orange liqueur like Cointreau or Combier, 1/2 cup of which adds sweetness, is known as triple sec. To balance the spirits’ booziness, you’ll need 1 cup of sweet and sour mix – either store-bought or homemade. For color and carbonation, don’t leave out 1-2 cups of Coca-Cola.

Mixing Supplies Needed

In addition to the ingredients, you’ll need some supplies to mix up tasty Long Island iced teas. A cocktail shaker, essential for mixing all the ingredients thoroughly, works best if it’s a Boston shaker with metal tin and glass. Use a Hawthorne or mesh strainer to strain the cocktail into glasses. You’ll need plenty of good quality cube ice. 

Traditional tall highball or Collins glasses that can hold at least 12-14 oz volume are used for serving Long Islands. To accurately measure out the different spirits and sweet & sour mix, measuring cups & jiggers are a must. If making Long Islands for a group, mix them in a large glass or pitcher first. A stirring rod or long spoon is useful for stirring together batches for parties.

Long Island Iced Tea

Mixing Technique

Proper technique is crucial when mixing a well-balanced Long Island iced tea. First, fill the cocktail shaker halfway with ice cubes to chill the drink. Next, precisely measure 1/2 cup each of vodka, rum, tequila, gin, and triple sec into the shaker using a jigger. Add 1 cup of sweet & sour mix to the shaker. Then, seal the shaker and shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds to thoroughly blend and chill the cocktail. Grab a highball glass and fill it with fresh ice cubes. 

Use a Hawthorne or mesh strainer to strain the contents of the shaker into the highball glass. Top with 1-2 ounces of cola, just enough to give color. Garnish with a lime wedge, squeezed into the drink and dropped in. Repeat these steps for each Long Island cocktail you prepare. For batches, first mix all the ingredients except cola together in a large glass. Then, pour the mix evenly into serving glasses filled with ice and top each with cola.

Tips for the Perfect Long Island Iced Tea

There are several pro tips to follow when making Long Islands at home. Use fresh juices instead of bottled for the sweet & sour mix to significantly improve the flavor. Shake hard enough to get the drink very cold but not so hard that you overly dilute it – 10-15 seconds of vigorous shaking is ideal. Always use fresh ice cubes since old ice leads to a watery drink. Carefully measure spirits using a jigger for consistency, as free pouring makes the booziness uneven. Only top with enough cola to give color, usually 1-2 ounces – too much cola will make it taste like a rum and coke. 

Garnish with lime instead of lemon since lime has a cleaner flavor that complements the drink best. Consider adding lemon-lime soda for a lighter, citrusy flavor instead of cola. Use a blended light or silver rum for a smooth finish rather than dark rum, which can overpower. And chill the glasses ahead by filling them with ice water or keeping them in the freezer to prevent the ice from melting too quickly.

Serving Suggestions

Long Island iced teas pair well with a variety of occasions. Their refreshing flavor fits right in at outdoor summer parties, BBQs, and beach days. The classic cocktail is also perfect for watching sports, like baseball or football tailgates. Make a big batch in a pitcher for easy serving at backyard gatherings and barbecues. 

The boozy strength also makes Long Islands ideal for birthdays, celebrations, bachelor/bachelorette parties, or any wild night out. Enjoy a leisurely Long Island on weekends and days off to relax. Any hot day is also perfect for cooling down with a chilled Long Island cocktail.

Avoiding Common Mistakes

To keep your Long Islands from turning out poorly, some common amateur errors should be avoided. Don’t use cheap well spirits, as low quality vodka, rum, etc impart off flavors – spend a few extra dollars on mid-range name brand bottles. Be sure to shake the drink rather than skipping this step, as shaking aerates the cocktail and chills it fully. Avoid using old ice cubes or small shards that cause rapid melting and a watery drink. 

Precisely measuring each spirit with a jigger is key – don’t just eyeball the 1/2 cup amounts. Add only 1-2 ounces of cola for color instead of too much, which overwhelms the flavor. Chill the glasses so the ice doesn’t melt too fast and lead to a diluted drink. Use lime instead of lemon for the garnish, since lime has the cleanest flavor. And drink the Long Island soon after mixing for optimal cold temperature and flavor instead of letting it sit and warm up.

Batching for Parties

Making individual Long Islands for a crowd can be time-consuming. For parties, try this easy method for batching: In a large pitcher, combine 4 cups each of vodka, rum, tequila, gin and 4 cups triple sec. To this, add 8-16 cups of sweet & sour mix depending on desired strength. Shake or stir vigorously to combine. 

Fill each glass with ice, then pour the premixed Long Island mixture into each, filling halfway. Top with 1-2 ounces cola for color. Add lime garnishes and serve immediately, ideally drinking within the same day for best flavor. For a crowd with varying tolerances, water the batch mixture down slightly.


With its refreshing yet deceiving flavor profile, the Long Island iced tea has become a beloved cocktail staple. While often linked to its frat party origins, this drink deserves appreciation for its balanced blend of good quality liquors and sweet yet tart taste when made properly. It takes skill to combine the spirits in perfect ratios. 

Follow our recipe tips and you’ll soon be making delicious Long Islands worthy of the finest beach bars and cocktail lounges. Just be cautious of its hidden strength – this is no innocent iced tea! Enjoy this iconic cocktail responsibly.

See More : A Taste of Home: The Whimsical World of Rooibos Tea Taste