The Long Island Iced Tea was popularized in the 1970s and remains a beloved drink. It’s possible the cocktail was born out of Prohibition, when thirsty scofflaws wanted to disguise their booze. It’s also possible the drink sprung up in the ’70s at a bar in Long Island, or maybe at a TGI Friday’s. This much is known: You still can’t throw a lemon wedge inside the chain restaurant without knocking one over.
On paper, the Long Island Iced Tea is one hot mess of a drink. Four different—and disparate—spirits slugging it out in a single glass, along with triple sec, lemon juice and cola? The recipe reads more like a frat-house hazing ritual than one of the world’s most popular cocktails. And yet, somehow, it works.
That’s because the Long Island Iced Tea succeeds where so many of today’s refined cocktails fall short: It’s boozy AF—nearly four ounces of alcohol against less than half that amount in mixers. Unless you’re a sailor on shore leave (and, probably, even if you are), that’s a red-flag ratio loaded with morning-after consequences. It’s also precisely what a person needs every now and then.
So, it’s best not to intellectualize the Long Island Iced Tea. Instead, love it for what it is: a one-and-done cocktail that goes down quickly and gets the job done. That said, even though the drink is rarely served at establishments juicing fresh citrus, it really perks up with the addition of fresh lemon juice. If you’re making one at home, squeeze some fruit for an easy win. And if you’re looking to tame your tea a bit, pull back the boozy parts from three-quarter ounce to half-ounce, and lean in on the cola. The good people of Long Island won’t be offended.
Click Play to See This Long Island Iced Tea Come Together
- 3/4 ounce vodka
- 3/4 ounce white rum
- 3/4 ounce silver tequila
- 3/4 ounce gin
- 3/4 ounce triple sec
- 3/4 ounce simple syrup
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- Cola, to top
- Garnish: lemon wedge
Add the vodka, rum, tequila, gin, triple sec, simple syrup and lemon juice to a Collins glass filled with ice.
Top with a splash of the cola and stir briefly.
Garnish with a lemon wedge.
Serve with a straw.