Long Island Iced Tea is a classic drink everyone has at least tried once. It is a perfect mixture of exceptional ingredients that all create a spectacle of flavor and amazing colors. Now, people who are not familiar with this drink usually think that Long Island iced tea is an actual ice tea that is an upgrade to the regular iced tea beverage we are used to. However, Long Island is actually an alcoholic beverage that is perfect for a fun Friday night out.
So, as an alcoholic beverage, it is really important to know what it really contains. Alcoholic beverages, especially ones that mix several types of alcohol can be rather tricky. They can seem especially tasty and pleasant to the palate but can make you very inebriated in a short time. So, whether you simply want to know what you’re drinking, or you want to make Long Island iced tea at home, here’s a little insight into the actual ingredients used to make this boozy bang of a drink. So, let’s get started.
The History of Long Island Iced Tea
Before we get into the ingredients, it is important to learn a little something about this beverage, where it comes from and what its cultural background is. Now, it is believed that a man named Robert Butt has invented Long Island iced tea in 1972. He allegedly invented this drink to enter a contest sponsored by Triple sec. The name for this drink was inspired by his workplace at the Oak Beach Inn on Long Island, New York.
On the other hand, there is a claim that the drink was first invented in the 1920s during the Prohibition era in the United States. It is believed that the drink was invented by an ‘Old Man Bishop’ in a Long Island community in Tennessee. This, however, seems to be a different type of Long Island iced tea as it had some different ingredients. Nevertheless, the variations to the drink became a standard, as different communities added their local twist to the drink. Nowadays, bars across the country and the world serve, of course, the standard, original version of Long Island iced tea, but surely enough, other varieties seem to be gaining popularity with different communities and consumers. Some of the most famous Long Island iced tea include Long Beach iced tea, Tokyo Iced tea, and the Adios iced tea.
It is important to mention that there have been several cookbooks in the 1960s, featuring Long Island iced tea recipes. The cookbooks were Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cookbook from 1961 and the American Home All-Purpose Cookbook from 1966. These cookbooks featured some different versions of this drink, that included few additional ingredients.
The Long Island Iced Tea Standard Ingredients
In the following paragraphs, we are going to take a look at the standard Long Island Iced Tea ingredients. Overall, Long Island iced tea contains five shots of alcohol, a sweet and sour mix, and fuzzy drink or juice, according to your preferences;
- Vodka – When it comes to making Long Island iced tea, it is important to start with vodka. Now, you cannot use the standard vodka; the vodka for this drink needs to be good for mixing and blending with other alcohol and ingredients. Therefore, you will need ½ oz of good, mixing vodka. We recommend you use the Finlandia vodka, which is excellent for mixing drinks. It is somewhat strong and has a bitter aftertaste, but in combination with other Long Island ingredients, it creates a perfect flavor.
- Gin – Another important Long Island iced tea ingredient is gin. You will need ½ oz of best-dried gin for this drink. Just like the vodka, the gin you use needs to be able to mix well with other alcohol and ingredients. Therefore, we recommend you use the Beefeater gin, which is great because it is both spicy and fruity, and creates a great balance in the drink. This gin is dry but has a wonderful herbal bouquet and a citrus aftertaste. This makes it perfect for the Long Island iced tea. You can also try using the Bombay Sapphire gin, which is also ideal for mixing gin in cocktails.
- White rum – Here we are at the third alcoholic beverage you will taste or use in your Long Island iced tea, and it is white rum. Just like vodka and gin, you will need ½ oz of white rum. White rum is used specifically when mixing cocktails, so you can use pretty much any white rum you prefer. We recommend you try the Havana Club white rum; this rum is relatively light but has a rather complex, well-balanced, sweet flavor, which makes it perfect for a good Long Island iced tea.
- Orange Liquor – In order to balance out all the alcohol and flavor, there needs to be a citrusy and sweet addition, which is usually obtained from the orange liquor. You will need ½ of orange liquor. We recommend you go with the classic Triple sec, which is a strong, sweet and colorless orange liquor. However, you can also try the wonderful Cointreau, which is a famous French orange liquor, known as being exceptional in cocktails like Long Island iced tea.
- Tequila – Here the fifth and final alcohol that is used for the Long Island iced tea, and that is no other than tequila. Now, tequila is added to give the drink the edge and the kick it usually has. It is also added to make the whole drink cohesive and compelling flavor-wise. For the Long Island iced tea, you will need ½ oz of tequila. We recommend you go with Jose Cuervo Gold tequila; it is light in color, neat flavor and aroma and mixes very well in cocktails, of course. You can also use the Patron Silver Tequila or the Grand Mayan Ultra Aged tequila.
- Fresh lemon juice – It is known that in bars you will be served a Long Island iced tea with the so-called sour mix. Now, this is a store-bought citrus mix that is mixed with a sweet syrup and added to the drink. We believe that using a sour mix is a no-go, and the original recipe would agree. Instead, squeeze some fresh lemon juice; for your Long Island iced tea, you will need 1oz of fresh lemon juice.
- Coca Cola – To finish everything off, you will need 2 oz of Coca Cola for your Long Island iced tea. It is recommended to use the original flavor Coca Cola that is made with real sugar, not with Stevia or glucose syrup. Sometimes it can be hard to find the original Coca Cola, so make sure to check for it in local Mexican grocery stores, as the Mexican Coca Cola is made with cane sugar.
Other Ingredients for Long Island Iced Tea
- Cranberry juice – you can use cranberry juice instead of Coca Cola; it will make the drinks taste a bit different, but cranberry juice mixes well with all the alcohol, so it is surely a great Long Island iced tea variation.
- Lemon/lime soda – if you want to add some sparkle to the drink, but you’d avoid Coca Cola once again, try ordering/making you drink with lemon/lime soda. When using the lemon/lime soda you can also try leaving out the fresh lemon juice, just to avoid making the drink too citrusy.
- Pineapple juice – again, to avoid adding Coca Cola, you can try making the drink with some pineapple juice; this will make your drink even more exotic and it will surely taste great.
- Whiskey – a popular addition for a Long Island iced tea variety, whiskey is a great choice to spice things up. You can replace any of the alcohols with whiskey, by adding ½ oz; we recommend you use Jim Beam or Jack Daniels of course or even try using the whiskey sour mix.
- Actual tea – you can try replacing Coca Cola with actual tea; we recommend you go with Hibiscus or Jasmine tea, or basically any other herbals or flavored tea blend. Just make sure that the tea has been cooled down, or even cold brewed so it fits the drink properly.
Some Tips and Info about the Long Island Iced Tea
- Long Island Iced Tea is a relatively mild drink. When we take into consideration the amount of alcohol added to it, each being of ½ oz, and the amount of other drinks (Coca Cola, lemon juice), the drink would be 80-proof liquors, 60-proof orange liquor and 2 oz of Coca Cola. This drink would be equal to Rum & Coke.
- You don’t have to use all of the recommended 5 liquors to make a Long Island iced tea; in Miami, for example, they make their Long Island without tequila.
- You can experiment with this drink, and try swapping some of the alcohols with others of your preference; for example, you can add bourbon, Blue curacao, etc.
- Long Island iced tea is always, of course, served in an ice-filled highball glass, with a straw. This makes the drink that much refreshing, easy to sip and enjoy.
So, if you were wondering what kind of ingredients are added to the Long Island iced tea, now you know. Long Island iced tea is truly a classic among the cocktails. What makes it so likable is the fact that is it’s very tasty and enjoyable, but also very forgiving and easy to make. You can also easily replace ingredients with something that fits your palate better or come up with your own Long Island iced tea variety. So, next time you go out with your friends and they order the Long Island iced tea, use that time to shine and let them know some of the facts you have just learned.