The ice pick, a simple mixed drink, consisting of vodka and iced tea provides a quick solution for impromptu gatherings that features readily available ingredients and ease of mixing. These features–cheap, convenient, and easy–make the drink popular among college students. Further, its simple recipe makes it a cinch to make in large quantities for outdoor events such as cookouts.
The origins of the ice pick drink rely mostly on conjecture, and with just two common ingredients, even a cocktail novice or perhaps several stumbled upon the idea of mixing iced tea with vodka. However, many residents of Buffalo, New York passionately claim the drink as their own. Their argument references the area’s ice trade, with the ice pick, a tool used to separate ice prior to the advent of modern refrigeration, being the inspiration behind the drink’s name.
Historical evidence reveals tenuous support to this claim, with the area’s ice trade dating to 1850. In fact, the ice found beyond the mouth of Buffalo Creek was called “the best ice in the country,” albeit by the Buffalo Ice Company. However, the commercial ice trade started in Massachusetts, moving later to Maine, decades prior to Buffalo’s emergence as a commercial ice supplier.
The trade, in fact, started in 1806 with New England businessman Frederic Tudor shipping ice to the Caribbean island of Martinique. So Buffalo, we give you the ice pick based on repeated affirmation, and unless credible evidence appears that some genius New Englander came up with the bright idea of mixing vodka and iced tea sometime between say 1806 and 1850 it remains a native Buffalo drink!
With a simple recipe, few variations of the ice pick exist. Of course, swapping out the vodka remains a choice, but that impacts the drink in minor ways. The use of sweetened and flavored teas provides another option to modify. Many won’t even garnish this drink, but a lemon wedge remains the standard with folks just giving the lemon a squeeze to release the juice and dropping it right into the glass. We garnished the drink with a full lemon wheel for a bit more visual appeal.
The Kentucky Ice Pick provides a variation using sweet tea. Simply swap out regular iced tea in the original recipe and replace it with sweet tea. Next, swap out the vodka for the as of now, unofficial Kentucky state spirit of bourbon–a bill working through Kentucky’s General Assembly to make bourbon Kentucky’s State Spirit appears forthcoming. Incidentally, Kentucky provides 95% of the world’s supply of bourbon and its bourbon barrel inventory remains at a level of approximately two barrels of bourbon for every state resident.
- Collins glass
- Japanese jigger
- Bar spoon
- Drinking straw
- 2 oz. Tito's Vodka
- 4 oz. Iced Tea
- Ice cubes
- Lemon wheel for garnish
- Fill the Collins glass with ice. Add two ounces of vodka, four ounces of iced tea. Stir with a bar spoon, decorate with a lemon wheel, and serve.