The BEST Long Island Iced Tea Recipe

Whether you're a seasoned bartender or a curious newcomer to the world of mixology, mastering the art of making a perfect Long Island Iced Tea is a skill worth having. With its eclectic and vibrant flavor profile it’s a cocktail that tastes like no other.

Looking back on my early bartending days, the Long Island is one of the few cocktails I can actually remember learning to make because there are just so many steps compared to other drinks. So, be patient with this one. It takes a while to perfect but once you’ve made it a few times muscle memory kicks in and it becomes second nature.

Long Island Iced Tea is a potent yet deceptively smooth cocktail. Known for its unique blend of multiple spirits and its resemblance to non-alcoholic iced tea, it's a popular choice at bars and parties. With more than 3 3/4 oz of liquor this is an incredibly boozy  cocktail at almost double the strength of many other classics. It certainly packs a punch!

Long Island Iced Tea cocktail, two glasses side by side on a table with lemons and straws

Long Island Iced Tea Ingredients

The Long Island Iced Tea recipe is unique in that it calls for a mix of not one, not two, but five different spirits! Here's what you'll need:

  • 3/4 oz Vodka
  • 3/4 oz Tequila
  • 3/4 oz Rum
  • 3/4 oz Triple sec
  • 3/4 oz Gin
  • 3/4 oz Simple syrup
  • 3/4 oz Lemon juice
  • Cola top
  • Lemon slice or wedge (for garnish)

Each spirit builds on the other, creating the unique character of this drink.

How to Make a Long Island Iced Tea

 1. Mix the Spirits

In a shaker, combine equal parts vodka, tequila, rum, triple sec, and gin. The standard is 3/4 oz of each.

2. Add Sweetness and Sourness

Pour in a dash of simple syrup and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to balance the strong spirits. Again, 3/4 oz of each.

3. Shake it Up

Fill your shaker with ice and give it a good shake. This not only chills the drink but also dilutes it slightly, making it smoother. Shake for around 10 seconds until the outside of the shaker is frosty to the touch.

4. Top it Off

Strain the mixture into a highball or hurricane glass filled with ice. Top it off with a splash of cola for that signature color and a touch of sweetness.

5. Garnish and Serve 

Garnish with a lemon slice, and voila – your Long Island Iced Tea is ready to be served.

Advanced Mixology Tip: Layer Your Long Island

As there are so many ingredients, the Long Island Iced tea is a cocktail that lends itself really well to layering - an advanced technique that creates a visually striking drink.

If you decide to go this route it’ll completely change how you make this cocktail, but I’ll give you a brief overview here. First, make sure all the liquids are chilled to keep them at their maximum density.

You’ll pour all of the ingredients directly into the glass - no shaking or stirring necessary. Go in order from the most dense to the least dense, so you’ll first pour in the simple syrup, followed by the triple sec, the lemon juice, and then tequila, rum, vodka and gin. Pour each ingredient over the back of a bar spoon to get a more slow trickle and even spread. Remember - we don’t want the layers to mix together.

Finally finish the drink off with a cola top. The idea with a layered cocktail (apart from looking great) is that the drinker can taste each layer separately. In the end, though, I still end up mixing it together with my straw so I can get a taste of that delicious, classic Long Island Ice Tea flavor.

Long island iced tea cocktail view from above, with a pink straw in the drink, ice cubes and a lime wedge.

Variations of Long Island Iced Tea

The classic Long Island Iced Tea recipe is just the beginning. There are several popular variations:

  • Electric Iced Tea: Swap out the cola for blue curaçao and lemon-lime soda to get a vibrant blue version.
  • Long Beach Iced Tea: Use cranberry juice instead of cola for a fruitier, slightly tart version.
  • Miami Iced Tea: Add a splash of peach schnapps and use lemon-lime soda instead of cola for a tropical twist.

Feel free to experiment with different ingredients to create your unique take on this classic.

Other Cocktails Similar to a Long Island Iced Tea

The Long Island is on the “eclectic, crazy mixes” side of cocktail making - in contrast to the more demure world of the classics. As such there aren’t any cocktails that have the same taste, but here are a few that were invented in the same spirit of quirky adventure.

  • Zombie: A rum-heavy tropical drink that's also very potent. A mixture of white, dark and overproof rums with pineapple and lime.
  • Midnight Mochi: A curious mix of Roku Gin, coconut milk, matcha powder and lime, this is a truly unique cocktail.
  • Absinthe Hemingway: A potent, fizzy combination of absinthe and champagne.

These cocktails are perfect for those who enjoy strong, flavorful drinks.

Cocktail Accessories Needed to Make a Long Island Iced Tea

  • Jigger: We’ve got 5 different spirits to measure out for this recipe, as well as the lemon and simple syrup - so a good jigger is a must have. Unless you’re a master of the free pour, that is.
  • Cocktail Shaker: We need to get all those ingredients nicely mixed and chilled, which is where your martini shaker or Boston shaker comes in.
  • Strainer: To pour the drink whilst leaving the “nasties” - namely bits of ice and lemon - behind.
  • Highball Glass: Invest in some high quality highball glasses - the traditional glass for serving a Long Island Iced Tea - to really improve your presentation. 

Parting Words

The Long Island Iced Tea is a cocktail of its era, thought up by young bartenders in a 1970s New York bar. It was invented in the spirt of playful experimentation which captures the essence of what mixology should be.

As you learn to make this drink I hope that you, too, can capture some of the sense of fun in cocktail making.

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