Photo by Megan Leigh Barnard

Long Live the Long Island!

I used to dismiss Long Islands. The ones served by campus bars in Athens weren’t better or stronger than most other cocktails, yet they were more expensive. It was, generally speaking, the drink of a stupid person. So I dismissed them. Until I started dating my girlfriend Emily. She loves Long Islands and she converted me, via the cocktails at Char Bar and Union. These are not the half-assed, inconsistent drinks of college; they are well-crafted, oversized, potent creations.

Emily is their evangelist but she hates writing, so I volunteered to help her make her case. And what better spot to delve into their merits than Union during Legendary Long Island Thursdays, when pint glasses full of them are a mere $3.75. So off we went.

“Just the first taste and I already feel inspired,” Emily said after we received our opening round of well Long Islands. We watched music videos from the likes of Beyonce, LFO, and Ke$ha—who looks like she smells like Long Islands—while we discussed the finer points of the drink.

“The first one tastes so good…”

Long Islands can be delicious, which Emily pointed out before she mouthed when it hits your lips. There is a caveat, though. Not all Long Islands are delicious, or even good. Not long ago we went to another Short North bar that shall remain unnamed, and she asked the bartender about his skill in making them. He gave her a look like, “What kind of question is that?” before assuring her that his were just fine. Turns out he was a damn liar. When made incorrectly, it’s dangerously close to tasting like the spillage from a bar mat dumped into a cocktail glass. Find the bars that specialize in making them and only order them there.

“It has a purpose: you want to get drunk. That’s fact.”

There is a tool for every job. An artisanal whiskey cocktail is a surgeon’s scalpel, exact in its intoxicating measurements. A Long Island is a sledgehammer. Don’t use one when the other is required. Or, as Emily recommended, “If you’re not even buzzed after one Long Island, you should punch the bartender because they took advantage of you.” [Editor’s note: no bartenders were harmed in the making of this magazine.]

“They taste better when they’re cheap.”

Doesn’t everything? The $9 Long Islands at Char Bar are still a great value because they last forever and you really only need one, but find them on discount and you feel like you’ve got a nightlife cheat code. This isn’t only about price, though—the drink itself tastes just as good when using well liquors. Probably better. There’s no reason to mix Belvedere, Hendrick’s, and Casamigos. Ever.

“If you’re a male backup dancer, are you even excited to get a callback from Madonna at this point?”

That was my statement as we watched one of her music videos—the point being that Long Islands are stimulators of great conversation. (Emily’s take: Yes, people watch Madonna videos all over the world. People everywhere don’t care about Ariana Grande. My take: Isn’t it kind of sad now? She’s almost 60 and still writhing around on the floor in leather.) Yes, you too can have these types of vital discussions for less than the cost of a single craft beer.

“There’s not one person in here having a bad time.”

Though Emily may have overlooked a stray Cavs fan watching the team during the first installment of the seven-part miniseries of inevitable failure and heartbreak, everyone else seemed to be having a blast. On any given night, the many variations of Long Islands are the party fuel for most people at Union. Emily got the itch to dance only halfway through her first one; an Old Fashioned can’t do that. That’s fact.