Back when I first started drinking, I was slightly shocked when I learned that Long Island Iced Tea isn’t iced tea at all – I had heard of its potent powers and knew it was an alcoholic drink, but I simply thought that it was a spiked iced tea. In search of getting the booziest bang for my buck as an undergrad, the LIIT quickly became my go-to at an average of 22 percent ABV.
A Long Island Iced Tea is traditionally made with vodka, tequila, rum, triple sec, gin and a splash of Coke – the soda gives it the color of iced tea, and the sweetness of the triple sec calls to mind the flavor of sweet tea. Robert “Rosebud” Butt claims to have invented the powerhouse drink as a contest entry in 1972 – the challenge was to make a mixed drink with triple sec (is it me, or does that not seem like a challenge?). He entered the contest while working at the Oak Beach Inn on Long Island, hence the name.
A similar drink was created in the 1920s in Long Island, Tennessee and includes whiskey, four other types of liquor and maple syrup. Though not exactly the same, you get the idea – a lot of liquor, a little sweetness. This drink, dubbed the “Old Man Bishop,” was mixed up by a man of the same name. Sources speculate that during the Prohibition era, people wanted their smuggled drinks to pack a punch, and its resemblance to iced tea would make it easy to sip in public.
In the 1960s, recipes for the Long Island Iced Tea appeared in Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cookbook (1961) and American Home All-Purpose Cookbook (1966). This was the first time a recipe for the spiked tea appeared in print, though these versions seem to have a few additional ingredients – simple syrup and lemon juice.
Make your own at home with the traditional recipe below – but be careful!