Long Island Iced Tea: from New York, or Tennessee?

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Long Island Iced Tea: Five Drinks in One?

Prohibition is just too difficult to think about, but it was real. Not only did your grandparents have to endure the Great Depression, but they suffered 13 years of the restrictive Prohibition as well. Now, if this wretched decree were to be imposed upon us again, you could be certain that we would find a way to get as much booze as possible into in the most discreet mixture possible. Voilà. Enter the Long Island Iced Tea.

There are at least two stories of its origin, and as with any drink, there is no reason that both can’t be true. It is said that a man named “Old Man Bishop” first concocted the mixture in the ‘20s in a community called Long Island in Kingsport, Tennessee. The cocktail was later perfected by his son, Ransom Bishop. As a secretive Prohibition cocktail, the Long Island Iced Tea makes a whole lot of sense. Veiled in flavor and in name, the Long Island Iced Tea packs a ton of booze into a tricky and inconspicuous tea-like beverage. Claims for the veracity of the Tennessee origin of the cocktail argue that no one would have taken claim for a drink’s recipe during the strict days of the Prohibition. Others state that the two drink recipes are different enough that both could have been concocted originally without knowledge of the other.

The second story puts the drink in its middle years rather than its retirement years, being introduced in the ‘70s. Many believe that the first person to mix up a batch of Long Island Iced Tea was Robert Butt, in Long Island proper in eastern New York, at the Oak Beach Inn. Butt himself is truly convinced that he is the original source and takes on naysayers at his website www.longislandiced-tea.com. Based on the popularity of this drink during the 1970’s, there seems to be some truth to this Long Island claim, as much as the Tennessee proverbial story.

For the sake of being impartial we’re going to show you both recipes and you can put the mark on your favorite inventor.

The Prohibition-era Long Island Iced Tea from Tennessee as recorded by Ransom Bishop:

  • One fresh lemon half
  • One fresh lime half

Squeeze both into a pint glass.


  • ½ oz. Rum
  • 1 oz. Vodka
  • 1 oz. Whiskey
  • ½ oz. Gin
  • ½ oz. Tequila
  • ½ oz. Maple Syrup


Mix thoroughly, then layer in 5 oz. of Soda Water and/or Cola, top off with cubed ice.


For the disco-fevered Long Island nightclub Robert Butt version:

  • 2 cups ice cubes into a highball glass
  • 1 part Vodka
  • 1 part Gin
  • 1 part White Rum (clear, not Dark)
  • 1 part White Tequila
  • 1/2 part Triple Sec
  • 1/2 part Sour Mix
  • 1 splash Coke
  • Lemon wedges for garnish


A group of bloggers and reviewers here at the Snoqualmie Nation sat down and had a tasting of these two high-octane versions of the highest-of-octane beverages; and (we think we remember) Ransom Bishop’s mixture took a unanimous, all around two-thumbs up.

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