Sometimes it’s hard to remember what sparks your interest or helps you discover your passion. But I know my love for creating cocktails started with a Long Island Iced Tea.
I know a Long Island Iced Tea isn’t a complicated cocktail. It’s not complex but does follow the standard formula of a cocktail: spirit, sour, and sweet.
Most of the bartenders I know have a love-hate relationship with this cocktail. They’re easy enough to make, and they sell really well. But it’s really easy for customers to have one too many and for things to get out of hand.
So how did a Long Island Iced Tea get me into mixology? It was really the idea of swapping components.
When I was about 27, before I had started bartending, I didn’t drink much. Occasionally I would mix rum or Jack and Coke while I was out with friends, but I hadn’t explored the world of cocktails at all.
I remember going to a restaurant and having a Long Island to try something different. I loved it! The amount of alcohol for the price was a steal, and the taste was delightful.
So I decided to go to my local grocery store and buy the ingredients to make my own Long Island. I purchased what I thought was the smart choice, premade Long Island mix, sour mix, and generic cola.
I enjoyed them at first but then started wondering what would happen if I swapped out the pop for different flavors?? Could it be better?
So for the next several months, I bought all different types of soda. Our kitchen was filled with 2-liter bottles of pop. I purchased generic colas, bought seasonal flavors, bought the sodas that I knew would be awful but still gave them a shot for science.
It was exciting to see what changing out 1 ingredient would do for this cocktail. I didn’t know it yet, but this experience was fueled by the same curiosity I would have later in life when I started bartending.
Today, my Long Island Iced Teas are very different but still hold true to what I had many years ago.
I like to use a tequila that is a little higher quality because I can personally taste the tequila the most in the drink. I also use Cointreau instead of triple sec because I like Cointreau’s taste better by itself.
The three most significant differences between the first Long Island I made and the ones I make now are these:
- I make my own fresh sour mix.
- I shake the cocktail before I add the cola.
- And I serve it over semi crushed ice to serve.
Shaking the cocktail for me helps blend all these ingredients and makes it smoother. Serving a Long Island over semi crushed ice helps keep the cocktail diluted since this is a very boozy cocktail.