The infamous Long Island Iced Tea (LIIT) is a drink of two tales.

One story traces its origin back to Tennessee’s Long Island, which sits in the middle of the Holston River. According to a tourism video posted by Visit Kingsport, the drink was created during Prohibition by Charlie “Old Man” Bishop. During these tense times, Bishop created his elixir of tequila, rum, vodka, gin, and whiskey, and sweetened it with maple syrup—you know, to make it more palatable. In the 1940s, his son, Ransom Bishop, improved the mix by adding citrus and cola. This resulted in a drink that sounds a lot like the boozy Long Island Iced Tea that we’re familiar with today.

The other origin story claims that the drink was invented in the 1970s by bartender Robert “Rosebud” Butt, who was based in Long Island, New York. He claims to have created the Long Island Iced Tea during a 1972 cocktail-crafting competition where triple sec was the must-use ingredient. While he can likely claim the addition of triple sec to create the modern, hangover-inducing version we know today, after finding some old census data of a Ransom Bishop who lived in Sullivan County (where Kingsport is located), it’s likely that the LIIT came to fruition long before Mr. Butt was around.

Depending on which brands and proportions you use for the LIIT, the percent ABV can range, but it will always be boozy. While it will likely never be the most impressive drink that you’ll have, it gets the job done and is quite party-ready. Fresh lemon juice, quality cola, and spirits that aren’t too exotic in flavor are vital for a LIIT, so it doesn’t taste like a hangover in a glass. And as with any well-crafted cocktail, a quality drink starts with quality spirits. Other than that, as long as your technique is decent, you can expect to enjoy a solid LIIT. Pro tip: A creative garnish like a cucumber ribbon or lemon wedge could make it look the part, as well.


long island iced tea, cocktails with lemon garnish

Long Island Iced Tea

Photo by Brent-Hofacker/Shutterstock

Long Island Iced Tea

Ingredients:

  • .5 oz. Whiskey
  • .5 oz. Tequila
  • .5 oz. Rum
  • .5 oz. Gin
  • .5 oz. Triple Sec
  • .5 oz. Lemon Juice
  • Cola (to Top)
  • Cucumber Ribbon or Lemon Wedge (for Garnish)

Preparation: Combine all ingredients, except for the cola and garnish, in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled and diluted. Strain into a highball glass and fill with fresh ice, then top with cola and garnish.