The competition, a two-parter between Kingsport and Long Island, N.Y., got underway Wednesday at Hudson’s on the Mile. It was that restaurant’s owner, Butch Yamali, who challenged Kingsport to a “taste off” after Visit Kingsport made national news by “reclaiming” the title “birthplace of the Long Island Iced Tea” for Kingsport. The name “Long Island Iced Tea” has been internationally known since the days of disco for an uber popular cocktail widely accepted to have been created in the early 1970s on Long Island by Robert “Rosebud” Butt.
Kingsport folks traveled to New York for Round 1. New York folks will travel here next month for Round 2.
While both sides are serious about claiming their rightful place in the drink’s history, it was clear by the end of Round 1 that after a day or so together the two groups are turning into “frenemies.” In other words, everyone was having a good time getting to know each other and learn more about each other’s home turf.
The Kingsport team says no matter what, Kingsport will always be home of the “original Long Island Iced Tea,” giving credit to a father-son team from Long Island (of the Holston) for the creation of a tea-like cocktail back in the days during and following Prohibition.
The New York team, however, wore shirts Wednesday touting, “We don’t just make it, we invented it. Freeport, Long Island.”
“Supported by a raucous crowd and holding the home turf advantage, Hudson’s version of the Long Island Iced Tea was chosen as the favorite in a blind taste test by each of the five judges, all of whom were from New York,” according to a statement issued by Visit Kingsport after the event, which included the following details:
— Hudson’s bartenders Freddy Cardenas and Elias Gomez mixed the winning drinks, which consisted of vodka, tequila, rum, gin, triple sec and cola. Kingsport bartenders Shane Winegar and Randy Ashens used rum, vodka, whiskey, gin, teguila, maple syrup, lime, lemon and cola to make Kingsport’s version of the drink (said to have been created by “Old Man” Bishop in the 1920s and improved on in the 1940s by his son Ransom).
— “Listen, we’ve had a blast,” said Ashens. “This has been a lot of fun and a great experience. The people up here have been great and you gotta give it to their bartenders — they know what their people like. But I can tell you one thing: It’ll be a different story when we get to Kingsport for Round 2 in July.”
— Winegar enjoyed mixing it up behind the bar with his longtime friend Ashens, and Cardenas and Gomez as well. “It was rigged,” Winegar said with a laugh. “No, man, I’m just kidding. They won it fair and square. They know what their customers like to drink and we know what ours like — and that will be on our side when we come home to do this again.”
— Round 2 is scheduled for July 13 in Kingsport, and the New York guys are looking forward to visiting Tennessee.
— “I’ve never been there but I absolutely cannot wait to get down there,” said Cardenas, who has tended bar at Hudson’s for eight years. “I have a feeling it’ll be a lot closer contest when we get down there. Seriously, this has been so much fun. All these guys are so awesome and I’ve really enjoyed meeting everyone from Kingsport. This event has been nothing but great for both our cities and I look forward to going to Kingsport.”