What to Know
- A LI bar owner declared an "act of war" against the Kingsport, Tennessee Tourism Board because the town claimed it created a famous cocktail
- Butch Yamali, owner of Hudson’s on the Mile in Freeport, sent a formal letter to the Kingsport Tourism Board challenging them to contest
- What’s at stake? The honor of laying claim to a well-known cocktail
We’ve heard about the Boston Tea Party, but the “Battle for the Tea” hits closer to home.
What’s at stake? The honor of laying claim to a well-known cocktail.
A Long Island bar owner declared an “act of war” against the Kingsport, Tennessee Tourism Board all because the southern town claimed that the famed Long Island Iced Tea cocktail was actually created there.
Butch Yamali, owner of Hudson’s on the Mile in the “Nautical Mile” area in Freeport, New York, sent a formal letter to the Kingsport Tourism Board challenging them to a Long Island Iced Tea taste test contest where the winner will secure the naming rights of the cocktail and the loser will be tasked with cleaning their opponent’s bar and bathrooms and raise the winner’s state flag above their establishment.
“We on Long Island celebrate our beaches, our accents, and most of all, our booze. An insult against one, is an insult against all!” reads part of Yamali's.
“The Long Island Iced Tea is not only a badge of honor, but an earned reputation, that Long Island restaurant, tavern and pub patrons wear proudly,” the letter continues.
Though the Kingsport Tourism Board said they "are excited about this challenge and anxiously await their invitation for the battle of this beverage. Once we receive it, we will rally our troops, gather our ingredients and prepare to defend our original recipe."
In a response letter to Yamali, Kingsport says it "graciously" accepts the challenge, adding that Long Island's version of the cocktail "can't possibly hold a candle to the original, crafted on Kingsport's Long Island during Prohibition — some 50 years before y'all ever thought about it."
According to Long Islanders, the cocktail’s origins date back to 1972, when “Rosebud” Butt, a bartender at the Oak Beach Inn in the Hamptons, invented the concoction and called it the “Long Island Iced Tea.” “Rosebud” died in 2014.
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However, the story doesn't align with the one told in the Tennessean town.
According to the southern town, the drink was first mixed into existence on Long Island in Kingsport.
"We feel pretty certain that a lot of people in Kingsport and in the region aren’t aware that the Long Island Iced Tea was born here,” Jud Teague, Executive Director of Visit Kingsport, said. “The drink has a long and very interesting history and we just felt like it was time for us to embrace it and our role in its creation.”
Kingsport officials say that the cocktail came into existence in the 1920s during Prohibition when bootlegger Charlie "Old Man" Bishop invented the concoction while he was living on Long Island in Kingsport.
"That's a bunch of baloney," Yamali said about Kingsport's claim.
Long Island's version of the cocktail is typically made with vodka, tequila, light rum, triple sec, gin and a splash of cola. Tennessee's version is slightly different and includes whiskey and maple syrup — forgoing the triple sec.
In the words of Yamali's letter: "It's time to settle the score once and for all."