Kingsport Times-News: The impact of the Long Island Iced Tea battle

The impact of the Long Island Iced Tea battle

Matthew Lane • Oct 28, 2018 at 12:00 PM

KINGSPORT — A battle raged this past summer between a small town in Tennessee and the City that Never Sleeps. It was a friendly battle, but a serious one nevertheless, and one that’s still being fought to this day.

It has to do with the rightful birthplace of the multi-liquored cocktail known as a Long Island Iced Tea.

“We were just trying to come up with an event for Kingsport, a festival and maybe a trail for visitors, where you could go around and learn about the history (of the drink),” said Jud Teague, executive director of Visit Kingsport, the tourism arm for the city of Kingsport. “We then sent it to New York, hoping they would bite. They bit pretty hard, and it’s been good for both areas.”


The battle began this past May when Kingsport “reclaimed” its rightful status as the birthplace of the Long Island Iced Tea. The story goes that “Old Man Bishop” created the “original Long Island Iced Tea” on Kingsport’s Long Island in the 1920s — with his son Ransom making revisions in the 1940s.

Once this “claim” made its way north to the Big Apple, folks in New York did not take too kindly to Kingsport trying to steal their spotlight and repeated the long-established story that the Long Island Iced Tea was created at a bar on their turf in the 1970s by “Rosebud” Butt.

To settle the dispute, Kingsport and New York agreed to a series of blind taste tests. New York won the first round back in June; a month later Kingsport claimed victory. A final taste off is in the works, Teague said, with the “neutral” location to be announced by the end of the year.


Visit Kingsport spent just over $40,000 on the Long Island Iced Tea promotion, which included travel to New York, holding one contest in town, the advertisements and production of video. In return, Teague said Visit Kingsport and the city received about $1.3 million in media coverage, including on television, radio and in social media.

“That’s a great return,” Teague said.

Basically, an advertisement agency uses an algorithm to determine the number of people watching TV or listening to the radio when a segment was broadcast or aired about the Long Island Iced Tea challenge. It tracks the number of ads and their duration.

On the social media front, it’s a little easier. Visit Kingsport tracked the number of posts, shares and engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. In the end, the promotion had 11.2 million views on television and radio and 27.3 million views across all four social media platforms.


The original idea behind the promotion was to create a trail where folks could visit different restaurants and eateries in Kingsport and try out other versions of the Long Island Iced Tea. Though the challenge may have overshadowed that this past summer, Teague said the idea is still in the works.

It may not technically be a trail yet, but there’s a listing of participating locations on Visit Kingsport’s website, including East Coast Wings and Grill, Bellafina Chocolates and Giuseppe's.

“We’re still working with some of the restaurants and specialty food places, to have a list of things people can go to get different variations of Long Island Ice Tea products. The bottom line is to try and drive more business into the small businesses,” Teague said.

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