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Long Island iced tea: History and Recipes

October 2nd, 2023

Long Island iced tea is one of the most famous cocktails in the world. Regardless of the “tea” in its name, While there is “tea” in its name, the drink has no tea at all, it’s tea-like only. The cocktail was invented in the last century and the name shows its origin from Long Island, but no one is sure if it comes from the Long Island in New York or that in Tennessee, so no one knows for sure. In this article, we will bring you back to the history of this well-known beverage and learn how to make it on your own based on original recipes.

Who invented the Long Island iced tea?


No one is certain about the origin of this famous Long Island iced tea.

There are some common myths surrounding the origin of the cocktail. The first version says the beverage was invented by a housewife who mixed a little of each type of alcohol to drink so that her husband didn’t notice at all. Another version mentions that during the prohibition period, bartenders made this alcohol look like a non-alcoholic drink so no one could detect just by looking at it.

There are two common stories of who really invented the Long Island iced tea. One was Robert Butt, who created this “innocent looking” cocktail at a cocktail creating contest in Long Island, New York in 1972. The other was Old Man Bishop, who invented the drink with the same name (but different recipe) in a community called Long Island in Kingsport, Tennessee back in the 1920s. Let’s take a look at the two recipes

Robert Butt’s recipe

Rosebud and his invention, influenced by disco-fevered night club taste.

At that time, Robert Butt, nicknamed “Rosebud”, was working at Oak Beach Inn bar so the cocktail was a disco-fevered night club version. To make this one, we need two cups of ice cubes, add some shots of vodka, gin, white rum, white tequila, triple sec and sour mix into the glass. We will get a white mixture and need to add some coke to make the tea color. It’s quite easy, isn’t it. And the glass can be garnished with lemon wedges.

Bishop’s recipe


Bishop’s recipe

The “Old Man Bishop” invented this cocktail during the prohibition era but the recipe we know today was perfected by his son Ransom Bishop back in the 1940s. To make this we need to squeeze lemon and lime into a glass, then add some ice cubes. Then we continue to add a little rum, vodka, whiskey, gin, tequila, maple syrup and white cola into the mixture. In this recipe, maple syrup helps make the color. Finally, we add lemon and lime wedges as a garnish.

Back in the 1980s, Long Island iced tea was popular all over the world. We could easily find this drink at any night club. No matter how many recipe versions have been made and how many origin stories told, we believe each of us will have our own version we like.

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