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The Real Long Island Iced Tea Recipe

Long Island Iced Tea / Getty

It’s hard to know where and when the Long Island Iced Tea, perhaps one of the most infamous cocktails in modern times, was truly invented.

The city of Kingsport, Tennessee has claimed it as their own, with tourism officials stating it was created by moonshine distiller Charlie “Old Man” Bishop during the Prohibition era of the 1920s, and named after a nearby island in the Holston River. This original version was said to include modern staples like vodka, gin, rum and tequila but with the addition whiskey and maple syrup.  

However, in an escalation of local tourism board public relations wars, New York’s Long Island disputed this account, claiming the drink was created much later in the 1970s by Robert “Rosebud” Butt, then a bartender at Jones Beach’s now-defunct Oak Beach Inn. That version hews closer to the Long Island Iced Tea made worldwide today, including triple sec and cola while omitting brown spirits.

What’s In a Long Island Iced Tea?

A Long Island Iced Tea consists of vodka, gin, tequila, white rum, triple sec, lemon juice, simple syrup and cola. Though the number of liquors in this cocktail can seem staggering, one of the reasons for its enduring popularity is that it’s fairly uncomplicated to make. As an old bartender shorthand goes, just use all your clear base spirits plus triple sec, add in lemon juice and simple syrup, then top with cola.