If you didn’t already know, you probably realize now that Kingsport is home to the Original Long Island Iced Tea. Yep, THAT Long Island Iced Tea – the one the folks up in New York think they invented.
It’s kinda funny when you think about that because Charley “Old Man” Bishop, who lived in Kingsport on Long Island of the Holston, first concocted his version in the 1920s, during Prohibition. The drink had whiskey, rum, gin, vodka, tequila, and a little maple syrup in it. A few years later, his son, Ransom, added cola, lemon, and lime to the drink, making it even tastier.
In May of 2018, we decided it was long past time for us to lay claim to what was rightfully ours. We let everybody know that the Long Island Iced Tea originated on OUR Long Island, not the one in New York. And you know what? That didn’t exactly sit well with them.
A gentleman named Butch Yamali, who owns Hudson’s On the Mile on Long Island, N.Y., took offense to our claim, saying that a guy named Robert “Rosebud” Butt created the Long Island Iced Tea (his version used triple sec and no whiskey or maple syrup) in the 1970s (oh sure… he
was ONLY 50 years behind the Bishops). Butch challenged Kingsport to a Long Island Iced Tea battle and naturally because our honor was on the line, we accepted.
And with that, the national media got involved and the Battle was everywhere… CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post… you name it, the war between Long Island North and Long Island South was big news!
Visit Kingsport’s crew, which included our very own bartenders – Shane Winegar and Randy Ashens from East Coast Wings – traveled to Hudson’s On the Mile for the first part of the challenge and met up with some of the nicest, most hospitable folks you’d ever want to go to
battle against. Naturally, they had the home-field advantage and despite Shane and Randy’s best efforts, all five judges in the blind taste test, New Yorkers all, picked the northern version of the drink as their favorite.
New York celebrated big that night but we weren’t defeated. Not even a little bit. We knew when Round 2 moved to Kingsport that we’d easily even the score. And that’s exactly what we did. A couple of weeks after the first meeting, Butch, his New York bartenders, Freddy and Elias,
and some other folks, flew to Tennessee. And all of us, including Shane and Randy, were more than ready to do battle.
Round 2 was held at Riverfront Seafood Company and long before the contest started, the place was packed! The Kingsport contingent was out in full force, which was no surprise to us since we knew we had everybody behind us. With strains of “Rocky Top” being sung by the crowd Randy and Shane mixed up the Original Long Island Iced Tea recipe and Freddy and Elias made the New York version.
Then the moment of truth. Five tasters were blindfolded, including Kingsport Chamber president Miles Burdine, and the test began. Moments later – after Miles and a couple of other judges drained the glasses that held Kingsport’s Original Long Island Iced Tea – the battle was
tied. We scored a unanimous decision over the New Yorkers, which was no surprise at all to any of us!
Both cities took a little time to celebrate their wins, which is why the third and final contest didn’t happen until June of 2019. Kingsport and the crew from Long Island, N.Y. met up on neutral ground in National Harbor, Md. At Bobby McKey’s Piano bar with all the bragging rights
on the line.
A wild crowd was on hand… but they definitely knew their Long Island Iced Teas because when all the tasting was said and done the Kingsport Original version once again reigned supreme! After claiming the winner’s trophy and a well-deserved celebration the Kingsport troops returned home to the land of the Original Long Island Iced Tea!
Along the way we’ve met some pretty incredible people while letting the world know that the Long Island of the Holston in Kingsport is where Charley “Old Man” Bishop created the Original Long Island Iced Tea!