Let’s Go Retro with Long Island Iced Tea


We’ve all drunk them. Maybe for some, more than they’d like to admit, but like Billy Joel, the Big Duck and Jones Beach, the Long Island Iced Tea can take its place in our culture and history here on Long Island. For all you trivia buffs out there, do you know where this smooth, yet potent, world-famous concoction originated from?

It was back in the summer of 1972 at the ever-popular Oak Beach Inn East in Hampton Bays. OBI owner Bob Matherson created a contest using triple sec as the main ingredient. Triple sec is a strong, sweet and colorless orange-flavored liqueur made from dried orange peels found on Curaçao, an island in the Caribbean. Matherson placed the bottle on the bar, and then asked 20 bartenders to come up with a refreshing new drink.

Robert “Rosebud” Butt just happened to be working that day and started mixing all kinds of liquors together. He started with a shot of vodka, then a shot of gin, some rum, tequila, a little sour mix, triple sec, of course, and then finished it off with a little bit of Coke to give it some color. Thus, the Long Island Iced Tea was born.

There are many who claim they created this famous cocktail, but Robert Butt is its official inventor. There are some humorous myths surrounding this drink. Some say it was invented by housewives who used small amounts of a variety of alcohol and mixed it all together so that their husbands wouldn’t notice their liquor cabinets dwindling. Other have said that during prohibition, men created the drink in order to disguise the alcohol so that it would look like they were drinking tea. Still another source says it was invented by “Old Man Bishop” in Kingsport, Tennessee, and he passed it down to his son. Tennessee? Wouldn’t it have been called the Tennessee Iced Tea then?

I think it’s safe to say that the Long Island Iced Tea was created by none other than Robert “Rosebud” Butt. Shortly after Rosebud began serving his specialty drink, every bar followed. By the 1980s Long Island Iced Tea was known and enjoyed throughout the world.

Check out this fun video featuring Robert “Rosebud” Butt, inventor of the Long Island Iced Tea, and watch step-by-step how to make this classic drink.