“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Well, mostly. My early forays into drinking were far from sophisticated. There are some drinks from those days that I have not revisited, many with good reason, but maybe it is time, being National Iced Tea Day, and all. I guess it is only fitting that we make a Long Island Iced Tea.
Ok, let’s get this out of the way first, there is no tea in Long Island Iced Tea. I know this, and yeah, that makes the connection to a made up holiday that no one has heard of a bit tenuous, but we aren’t trying to score on accuracy and relevance, we want points for style. So let’s take a look at some relevant history. Way back in olden times, a man owned a punch bowl. This man lived in a dorm room in a small private religious college and although he did not own identification that allowed him to purchase alcohol legally, he did possess abundant facial hair, a modicum of coin of the realm, a certain air of confidence and an easy-going manner that made his age only a minor inconvenience. Blessed with such good fortune, this fellow was often happy to entertain a select group of suave young men and dashing young ladies in his dorm room on weekends when the head resident was away. These impromptu soirées often centered around draining the aforementioned punchbowl of Long Island Iced Tea. So how did our host acquire the skills to make such a delicacy and offer it in such abundance? Easy, they used to sell a LIIT kit that included a bunch of small bottles you could literally just dump into the punchbowl and stir. But didn’t we feel like bon vivants? Carelessly dumping bottle after bottle into that punchbowl, like bootleggers from a flapper film. Stirring with savor faire before carefully ladling the contents into only the finest solo cups, liberated from the cafeteria. The very pinnacle of sophistication or, at least, a real step up from our usual Canadian Mist and Sun-Drop. I don’t recall what happened to that punch bowl, but I, mostly, do remember some pretty wonderful times around it and some fairly significant hangovers along the way. For a time, I would order these when out at bars, since the alcohol to mixer ratio was a good deal when it came to appearing carefree and sophisticated at the pub on a limited budget. As my tastes changed and I learned more about different alcohols and the art of cocktail creation, I left the Long Island behind. Not a bad breakup, we just sort of grew apart.
The accepted lore of the drink was that it was created at the Oak Beach Inn on Long Island, imagine that, for a contest to use triple sec in a new cocktail in 1972. ’72 was a good year for product launches in general. There is also a story that it is based on a prohibition era drink created in the Long Island community outside Kingsport, Tennessee. That might have some merit, since there is nothing new under the sun, but it had maple syrup and whiskey and didn’t have triple sec, which seems to be a defining factor of this drink, so we are gonna go with the Oak Beach Inn’s claim and call it a day.
In a departure from my usual flair, this drink is built in the glass and not shaken at all, and mores the pity. So grab a tall collins glass and pour in 3/4 ounce each of rum, vodka, tequila, gin, triple sec, simple syrup and lemon juice. Add some fancy ice cubes and top with your favorite cola and give it a light stir. Garnish with a lemon wedge and serve.
How is this old friend? Sweeter than I remember, less complex. While I certainly see potential, I don’t think it is my thing anymore. I see why we served it. It’s boozy as hell, but you wouldn’t know it from its coquettish demeanor. Many bad decisions were probably made around that old punch bowl, but that’s how you learn, right? And education is never a waste. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.