Long Live the Long Island Iced Tea!

A Long Island Iced Tea is a highball made with, among other ingredients, vodka, gin, tequila, and rum. A popular version mixes equal parts vodka, gin, tequila, rum, and triple sec with 1½ parts sour mix and a splash of cola.

Most variants use equal parts of the main liquors but include a smaller amount of triple sec (or other orange-flavored liqueur). Close variants often replace the sour mix with lemon juice, replace the cola with actual iced tea, or add white crème de menthe; however, most variants do not include any tea, despite the name of the drink. Some restaurants substitute brandy for the tequila. A true Long Island Iced Tea, as it was originally made, has always had tequila.

The drink has a much higher alcohol concentration (about 22 percent) than most highballs because of the proportionally small amount of mixer. Long islands can be ordered "extra long," which further increases the alcohol to mixer ratio.

Outside the United States, this highball is often altered, due to the unpopularity of sour mix. Long Island Iced Tea served outside the States is often made of liquors and cola alone (without sour mix), with lemon or lime juice, orange juice or with lime cordial

History of the Cocktail:

Long Island Iced Tea, a summer drink, was first served in the mid 1970s by Robert (Rosebud) Butts, a bartender at the Oak Beach Inn, in the Town of Babylon, Long Island, New York.  Robert “Rosebud” Butt began his bartending career at a Glen Cove bar. In 1972, he landed a job with the Oak Beach Inn (OBI) East in Hampton Bays, working for the infamous Bobby Matherson.

If you grew up on Long Island in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, odds are you had spent some time at one of the OBI’s. In 1969, Robert “Bobby” Matherson bought what was then a waterfront barrier island restaurant and converted it into a popular nightclub on Jones Beach Island. Matherson opened four more OBI night clubs: OBI North in Smithtown, two OBI West locations in Island Park and OBI East in Hampton Bays—where the famous Long Island Iced Tea was said to have been born.

Butt says he created the popular drink, the Long Island Iced Tea, in 1974. It was a cocktail-creating contest that “Rosebud” would never forget. Triple-sec had to be included in the concoction. The end result was a mix of vodka, gin, rum, tequila, triple-sec, lemon and a drop of Coke for color. Though “Rosebud” did not name the drink, he does claim the recipe to be his very own.

“Rosebud” left the OBI in 1979 and later left the bartending business altogether to pursue other things. He now lives in Del Ray Beach, Florida. Butt continues to visit Long Island and says whenever he does, he visits his favorite spot: Huntington Village. And the Long Island Iced Tea, too, remains a part of his life. Butt says, “Till this day wherever I go, people want me to make the drink for ‘em.”

“All of a sudden, the drink caught on and Bobby said to start making them,” says Butt.

 Popular Variations:
  • Peach Long Island: tequila is substituted with peach schnapps
  • Jersey Tea: cola is substituted with a shot of Jaegermeister
  • Pittsburgh Tea: tequila is substituted with Wild Turkey
  • Long Beach Iced Tea: cola is substituted with cranberry juice
  • California Iced Tea: cola is substituted with orange juice
  • Tokyo Iced Tea: tequila is substituted with Midori liqueur and cola with lemonade
  • Alaskan Iced Tea: cola is substituted with Blue Curaçao
  • Blue Motherfucker or Electric Iced Tea: triple sec is substituted with Blue Curaçao and cola with Sprite
  • Tennessee Iced Tea tequila is substituted with Jack Daniel's
  • Beverly Hills Iced Tea cola is substituted with Champagne

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