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The tea (battle) is brewing

J. H. Osborne • May 10, 2018 at 9:30 PM

KINGSPORT — You’ve insulted our honor and we demand satisfaction.

That pretty much sums up the response from barkeeps and bartenders along Long Island’s (New York) famed Nautical Mile to Kingsport’s recent “reclaiming” of the title “birthplace of the Long Island Iced Tea.” 

On Tuesday, Visit Kingsport — the Kingsport Chamber’s tourism arm — hosted an event to announce it was reclaiming the Model City’s rightful status as birthplace of the “original Long Island Iced Tea.” Samples were served and the story was told of how “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.

On Thursday, media nationwide received a press release from a New York firm announcing that state’s Long Islanders did not take kindly to Kingsport trying to steal their spotlight, repeating the long-established story that the Long Island Iced Tea cocktail known worldwide since the days of disco was created at a bar on their turf in the 1970s by “Rosebud” Butt.

By mid-afternoon, the fight was on CNN.

At the Kingsport Chamber, Visit Kingsport Marketing Manager Amy Margaret McColl was fielding calls from across the country and drafting an official reply while waiting on an actual copy of the letter from New York to arrive. She’d heard one had been received at City Hall. But city spokesman Heather Cook said not so and referred the Times News back to Visit Kingsport.

“We’re really excited about it,” McColl said. “Once we receive the letter, we’re going to respond and accept the challenge.”

Some people milling about in the Chamber’s lobby said as soon as the New Yorkers get here, someone needs to take them straight to Pal’s to introduce them first just to real iced tea. (After all, sweet iced tea is sometimes called “the house wine of the South.”)

McColl said the most upset she’d heard anyone get was when they’d heard the press release from New York letter mentioned the losers cleaning up the winning bar’s toilets after a “night of debauchery.”

“She said, ‘We don’t do debauchery down here,’ ” McColl said with a laugh.

For the record: The letter from New York was signed by Butch Yamali, owner of Hudsons on the Mile, and the response was signed by Visit Kingsport Executive Director Jud Teague. Both letters in their entirety can be read in the online version of this story. Here are some of the highlights, in tit-for-tat format.

New York: “In New York, we only drink tea when it’s from Long Island. For the honor of ‘Rosebud’ Butt and the 3 million Long Islanders who take pride in the cocktail named after our honor, we challenge your city to a duel for the ages and the naming rights of the Long Island Iced Tea.”

Kingsport: “We do appreciate your letter — however misguided it may be. We certainly understand your wanting to support your fella ‘Rosebud’ and his drink, which we’re sure is decent but it 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.”

New York: “Our storied booze history is without question among the most notable in the nation. George Washington, our nation’s founder, visited bars on our shores. 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.”

Kingsport: “Now, we know y’all have taken exception to our claim and we’re sorry if we’ve ruffled any feathers. But in Tennessee, where the mountains are Smoky, our traditions are strong, and the world moves a little slower, there’s never been any question about heritage when it comes to alcoholic beverages. Moonshine, home brew and Tennessee whiskey were born in these parts and we’re darn proud of that. We’ve always been trailblazers here in Kingsport — heck, Daniel Boone himself started clearing the Wilderness Trail here, no doubt enjoying a few of our local potions along the way.”

New York: “Not since the Civil War has the South tried to take over our territory.”

Kingsport: “ ... Goodness, we’d never try to do anything like that. Why, we’re known for our hospitality and weather, which is why so many of the folks from your neck of the woods end up moving here.”

New York: “We challenge Kingsport ... to a ‘Battle for the Tea.’ We invite you to visit the Nautical Mile in Freeport, New York, and arrange the face-off for all to witness, however, we would be happy to visit Tennessee in a friendly match on your ‘home turf.’ We will blindfold independent bar patrons to review the drinks. It’s time to settle the score once and for all.”

Kingsport: “ ... We’re happy to have y’all, even though you’re laying claim to what’s ours — and them’s fighting words. But, as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so thanks a bunch! You may claim that you’re the best but we’ll always be the original and there’s no getting around that. So, in the ‘Y’all versus Yous Guys’ challenge, we graciously accept. Be sure to bring your mom’n’em. Bless y’all’s hearts.”

 

 

 

 

 

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