Warning, Warning! The Long Island iced tea cocktail recipe you are going to look at is dangerously potent.
I don’t know how popular the Long Island iced tea cocktail is any more, but back when I was bartending, it was most popular indeed.
I’m not sure why I feel compelled to write about this, but I do, so here goes.
When I worked as a bartender at the Mexican restaurant, I mostly worked the day shift. I worked from opening, at around 9:30 or 10:00 a.m., until 5:00 or 6:00 p.m., depending on the day. So, at the end of my shift, some of the customers were peeps on their way home from work, stopping in for some libation.
As you can imagine, we had a bunch of regulars. One of them was a guy who stood out from the others to me. And even though I bartended over 25 years ago, I still think about him to this day. For the purpose of this story, I shall call him Bill, but that wasn’t his real name.
Why do I think of him?
Because he loved the Long Island iced tea cocktail. But not for the reason that other people love this delicious but dangerous drink. He loved it because it has a lot of alcohol in it. He also loved gin and tonics. I’ll get to that, too.
Long Island Iced Tea versus Gin and Tonic
Bill would come into the bar shortly after 5:00 and sit in the same spot, right beside the beer taps. If our restaurant was Bill’s first stop of the night, he would order a Long Island iced tea or two. Two was the limit that we were allowed to serve one customer. If he had already stopped at another bar first, then he’d have at least two gin and tonics before my shift was over.
There weren’t a lot of ‘rules’ back then. Sure, we wouldn’t serve someone obviously drunk. But we didn’t “shut off” someone unless they got belligerent or unless they became drunk while you were serving them.
One of the bartenders who worked mainly nights was unusual because she was quick to shut people off. She was blunt and direct. You knew exactly where you stood with her. Patrons were scared of her, but she was a very sweet girl. Still is.
One of the reasons I think Bill chose the seat he did, was because from there he could watch us mixing the drinks. He wanted to make sure that whoever was bartendending didn’t skimp on the booze. If you haven’t guessed already, he was an alcoholic.
Bill was very charming. He was also a good looking guy. He used to try to persuade us to make his drinks stronger, which is really hard to do with the Long Island iced tea since it’s basically booze with a little lemon juice and Coca Cola thrown in.
He made me sad. He’d cajole and charm but I wouldn’t relent, because remember, he would always have two.
Gin and Tonic
We served the Long Island Iced tea and the gin and tonic in the same 16 ounce standard issue bar glass. When Bill ordered the G&T, he would ask me not to put a lot of ice in it. I would comply but I definitely put in more than he wanted me to.
Then he would want me to fill the glass close to 3/4 full with gin. I couldn’t do that. I’d give him more than what management allowed, but 3/4 full? That’s 12 ounces. Actually, probably more like 10 ounces, given that there was ice in the glass. That is equivalent to roughly 7 shots. In one G&T. Too much. I refused.
His response was, “But I can’t taste the gin.”
Hearing those words only made me sadder.
I wonder where Bill is today. I wonder if he is even still alive. I will never know. Alcoholism is a horrible disease. It’s unrelenting. Seeing that is part of the dark side of bartending. My nephew and godson Bryan was a bartender for many years. He’s seen it too.
On to the recipe.