Updated: Jun 16, 2021
True story: at the tender age of 21, when I was just dipping my toes into the waters of legally consuming alcoholic beverages in public, a group of gal pals that I was dining with at a TGI Friday’s suggested we all get Long Island Iced Teas that evening. “No, thank you,” I politely declined, “I don’t really like iced tea.” And I think I ordered a glass of wine because I thought it was fancier. (You know, ‘cause Friday’s has a well-curated wine list.)
Anyway, little did I know that a Long Island was not actually made from iced tea. So in an ode to my youthful ignorance, as well as the fact that today, June 10, is Iced Tea Day, let’s talk about this cocktail and
its murky history.
A man named Bob Butt (heh heh 🍑), working at a bar on Long Island, claims to have concocted this potent drink in 1972 for a cocktail competition. The competition stipulated that the drink must include triple sec…so in went the triple sec, along with cola and a bunch of other spirits on the backbar. He said he referenced iced tea in the title because of its color and sweetness. (Ah ha! Wish 21-year-old me woulda known that.) And the rest is history.
Or is it?! Like so many historical accounts involving alcohol, there are many unknowns. Mr. Butt might not have been the original inventor of the LIIT. A gentleman known only to history as Old Man Bishop might have invented it in the 1920s in Long Island, Tennessee. As long as the prohibition agents didn’t get a whiff of it, the color of the drink made it look like tea. This legend says that after Old Man Bishop passed, his son, Ransom Bishop, zhushed up his dad’s cocktail and made it into the drink still found at every TGI Friday’s today.
But wait! The plot thickens. A version of the LIIT appeared in a 1961 version of Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cookbook and made a second appearance in the American Home All-Purpose Cookbook in 1966. If Bob Butts had truly invented it in 1972, then it wouldn’t have been in these cookbooks.
Was Mr. Butts lying his keister off? We might never know.
Regardless, folks still love this boozy concoction today, but not so much the hangover that usually accompanies it. Want to make one without the morning-after regret? Cut down on the booze! The version below contains only 1/2 oz. of the spirit, instead of the usual 3/4 to 1 oz. of each, bringing it to a more reasonable cocktail proportion. Maybe you really can have your LIIT cake and eat it too!
The Long Island Iced Tea
1/2 oz. white rum
1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. tequila
1/2 oz. triple sec/Cointreau
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Cola, to top
Garnish: lemon wedge or slice
Add all ingredients except the cola and garnish into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into a tall glass filled with fresh ice, and top with cola. Garnish with a lemon wedge or slice. Sip & enjoy!
Have any youthful memories that involve the Long Island Iced Tea? Tell us about them!