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Long island iced teas are historically an indulgent alcoholic drink that people use in order spice up the day or night.

Unfortunately, many of these drinks are loaded with sugar, preservatives, and low-quality tea. This is an unhealthy combination, especially when long island ice teas are indulged in excess.

In this article, we discuss one of the healthiest long island iced tea recipes that we’ve ever come across. Towards the end of the article, we offer our thoughts on some foods that can be paired with this concoction.  

Sourcing the Ingredients for the Long Island Iced Tea

Traditionally, long island iced teas are made from a combination of vodka, tequila, rum, gin, and triple sec. There is also usually a splash of some kind of dark soda.

It’s clear that this classic drink is heavy on the alcohol. We still want to emphasize this element, though we want to balance it out with unrefined fruit juices.

Long Island Iced Tea ingredients

Since triple sec is an orange-flavored liqueur, we usually substitute freshly squeezed orange juice for this part of the recipe. We also add an orange peel to the end of this drink so that the smell of oranges is prevalent throughout your imbibement.

If you live in a climate that grows oranges locally, then we recommend buying them from local farmers. This will result in the highest quality orange possible, especially if this fruit is in season. If the fruit is not in season, we recommend searching for oranges that stem from a region where the fruit is in season. Basically, if you work hard enough, you should almost always be able to find a seasonal orange that has that characteristic citrusy sweetness.

We usually substitute coconut water for the dark soda, as coconut water offers a refreshing sweetness that will remind you of vacations and the beach.

As for the alcohol, we like to stick to the classic recipe of using several different types of alcohol in equal quantities. We tend to prefer a combination of tequila, rum, and gin, though obviously any alcohol can be used.

Last but not least, the signature touch of this dish is a half of a tablespoon of maple syrup. We drizzle this on top before we serve it, as we find that it masks the taste of the alcohol quite well, making the drink more palatable. Legend has it that long the original long island ice teas were partially created using whiskey and maple syrup. Thus, by utilizing maple syrup in this recipe, we pay homage to the drink’s origins.

Making the Black Tea for the Long Island Iced Tea

If you’re drinking this beverage at your next tailgate, we recommend adding some caffeine to the drink. This will keep you energized throughout the tailgate and prevent you from passing out from drinking so much alcohol.

This is especially important during the warmer summer months, as falling asleep or passing out from drinking too much could result in dehydration and negative health consequences. While caffeine won’t make you any less drunk, it might satiate you on a different level, which could lead you to making smarter decisions. Often times when we overdrink, it’s a result of some repressed issue that we are not dealing with. Drinking caffeine could give you enough energy to tackle whatever issue is on your mind quickly and efficiently. This would allow you to be more present during the tailgate.

cold brewed black tea

All of this is to say that we love to add cold brewed black tea to this cocktail because its high in caffeine. Since we already have so much sweetness in the drink from the orange juice and maple syrup, we normally don’t add any sugar to our black tea.

When cold brewing, we typically use Keemun black tea, as we love its lightness, slight smokiness, and subtle notes of cacao.

Making the Long Island Iced Tea

Just because you’ve sourced all your ingredients doesn’t mean your long island iced tea is ready to drink. You still have to combine the ingredients in an optimal way to produce a harmony of flavors.

The first thing we do is fill up a highball cocktail glass with ice cubes. Then, we pour our alcohol in the glass. This will likely fill up about a third of the glass.

Next, we pour orange juice from about a half of an orange. You don’t want too much, otherwise its flavor will dominate each sip.

Then, we add a splash or two of coconut water. Finally, we fill up the rest of the drink with our cold brewed Keemun black tea.

Some people like to add a splash of lemon or lime juice for a bitter tart kick. We don’t mind doing this, but only when we don’t use black tea. We think the black tea is strong enough to overpower the alcohol, preventing the need for a neutralizing substance like lemon or lime juice. Additionally, the orange juice already offers a citrusy punch that will complement the tea, alcohol, and coconut water.

Tips for Making Long Island Iced Teas at Tailgates

We recommend making your long island ice tea in bulk before you go to your tailgate.

long island iced tea

If you want to keep it as fresh as possible, we recommend bringing it in an insulated container and keeping that in a cooler with ice. Then, right before you serve this drink, you can fill up some glasses with fresh ice.


We usually try to freshly squeeze our oranges at the tailgate, as this results in the freshest juice. We add several oranges worth of orange juice to our bulk mix, mixing it around for an even dispersion. If this is too much of a hassle, then doing it beforehand is also sufficient. Just make sure you don’t squeeze your oranges too much in advance, as their juice will go bad in 2-3 days.


Another tip that we’ve inherited over the years is to freeze the juice from seasonal oranges so that they can be used during any tailgate, regardless of the season. While this juice is certainly compromised to a degree, it still allows you to take advantage of sweet, ripe orange juice without having to squeeze it on gameday. Instead, we just take the frozen orange juice with us, letting it thaw out until its ready to use. Even if it’s still a bit icy, this is alright, as we usually just reduce some of our ice cubs to compensate.


Adding icy orange juice to your long island iced tea would be perfect for the summer months when something cooling and refreshing is needed. If you are tailgating during the cold winter months, then you might consider brewing fresh black tea using hot water. This could be created right before you attend the tailgate and then brought in an insulated mug.

Furthermore, when you eat heavier foods with alcoholic drinks, these foods can mask some of the effects of alcohol, which could lead you to drink an excessive amount of alcohol.

We usually use a combination of romaine lettuce and spinach for our salad. In terms of vegetables, we love cucumbers, red bell peppers, radishes, apples and dried dates. Sometimes we add a cashew cream sauce made from zucchini, cashews, and lemon juice.

If a salad doesn’t appeal to you, then eating anything earthy will pair well with the black tea, coconut water, and orange juice. Many people love to eat a sweet potato topped with mashed avocado, drizzled with maple syrup, and topped with a cashew cream sauce. Another popular addition is coconut flakes, as this gives each bite nutty crunch that pairs well with the cashew cream sauce.

Another option is to keep it simple and create some kind of porridge. This is especially good for cold weather, as there’s nothing quite like a mushy, wholesome meal of oatmeal with fresh blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries.

A Final Note About Long Island Iced Teas

Long Island Iced Teas

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that you’re not required to put alcohol in your long island iced tea.

Many people forget that they don’t have to be confined by the limits set in the past. You can still emulate many of the flavors of a classic long island iced tea while not using any alcohol. We think this way of consuming beverages will be more popular in the future as the dangers of consuming excess alcohol become more apparent than ever.


In the same vein, a couple of shots here and there should be fine as long as you maintain this level of moderation consistently. Ultimately, happiness and health are connected to balance rather than total asceticism.


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