A confession: I love a Long Island Iced Tea. My earliest (very hazy) memory of the drink is of having five at a lesbian bar in Brooklyn in 2006, but I came to truly love the drink after I started bartending at the lofty neo-speakeasy, PDT, a few years later. At first I thought this drink was banned, plus virtually no one asked me for one. But one night as I was perusing the bar’s literal rolodex of drink recipes, I happened across a recipe, and to my surprise and disturbed delight, the resulting drink was actually quite wonderful.
Since then I have made a few riffs, including a slushie version made with Dr. Pepper syrup, but this summery riff made with Japanese melon liqueur and Mountain Dew is my favorite. The key thing that unites a “good” Long Island Iced Tea is to recognize that, even though you’re using almost every major white spirit in existence, you’re only using a small amount of each individually, so added up, you’re not drinking that much more than you would in, say, a standard gin and tonic or Manhattan.
It’s drinks like these that demonstrate the importance of the integrity of your ingredients. Tell someone you’ve got an amazing Long Island Iced Tea variation for them to try, and most will go running for the hills, likely because the last time they had a drink like this it was probably made using the cheapest possible spirits, with cheap tequila being particularly brutal, as well as omitting fresh lime juice in favor of sour mix. Going the extra mile to source great spirits and use fresh citrus can open up worlds of possibility. —John deBary
triple sec, such as Cointreau (or blue curaçao if you’re feeling saucy)
freshly squeezed lime juice
simple syrup (recipe below)
Mountain Dew (yes!)
Melon balls, lime wheels, and Luxardo cherries, for garnish
In This Recipe
Combine everything except for the Mountain Dew in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice, close the shaker, and shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Strain into a highball or Collins glass filled with ice and one ounce of Mountain Dew, and then add the remaining Mountain Dew. Garnish with a lime wheel, honeydew ball, and Luxardo cherry on a pick, and serve with a straw.
For simple syrup: Combine 1/3 cup granulated sugar with 1/3 cup warm water in a sealable container. Shake to combine. Let sit for five minutes and shake again until sugar is fully dissolved. Will keep in the fridge for up to three weeks, or frozen for up to six months.