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It's unanimous: Kingsport tea winner of round two

Rick Wagner • Jul 13, 2018 at 8:30 PM

KINGSPORT — The tea series of 2018 is even: Long Island 1, Kingsport 1.

Put another way, Friday the 13th turned out to be the Model City’s lucky day as it unanimously won the second round of the Long Island Iced Tea Challenge, just like the New York bartenders won the first round June 27 in Long Island. Plans are for a third round, place and date not yet determined, but not in Kingsport or New York, to break the tie.

Although the competition was not part of Fun Fest, folks from Kingsport packed the bar at Riverfront Seafood Company on Netherland Inn Road on the kickoff day for that festival to cheer on two East Coast Wings bartenders looking to redeem themselves after the loss at Hudson’s on the Mile near the Hudson River last month.

HOW WAS THE WINNER CHOSEN?

The hometown mixologists succeeded, with all five blindfolded judges, including one originally from the “other” Long Island in New York, choosing the Model City’s version of Long Island Iced Tea as the best. The taste test took place across the south fork of the Holston River from Kingsport’s Long Island.

“There’s nothing like getting redemption in your hometown,” Kingsport bartender Shane Winegar said.

Fellow bartender Randy Ashens added, “It was so disappointing to lose 5-0 in New York, but we knew our drink was good, and we knew when we came back home we’d even the score.”

The judges were Kingsport Chamber President and CEO Miles Burdine; former Alderman Tom Segelhorst; Don Campbell, a New York Long Island native who is director of the Marsh Regional Blood Bank; Alderwoman Colette George; and Lori Payne, chairwoman-elect of the chamber board.

Hudson’s on the Mile owner Butch Yamall and Hudson’s bartenders Ellas Gomez and Freddy Cardenas came to Riverfront for the second matchup with Winegar and Ashens. 

“Listen, we love Tennessee,” Cardenas said. “We knew it would be hard to come in here and win, but those guys mixed a great drink. One thing I know for sure, everybody talks about the hospitality down here, and it’s just as they say — unbelievable.”

MAYOR’S TOP 4 LIST

Kingsport Mayor John Clark rallied the Kingsport crowd, drawing parallels between the New York Mets major league and Kingsport Mets minor league baseball teams; New York parks and Bays Mountain Park; and a major Kingsport employer once tied to one in New York.

“Of course we have our version of Eastman Kodak — the successful one,” Clark said.

Clark also cited the top four things folks from New York and the “other” Long Island needed to know:

1. Kingsport is the only Kingsport in the United States.

2. The city of about 53,000 is a place with a small-town feel and “big-city opportunities.”

3. The Kingsport Spirit helps bridge the gap between the small-town, big-city feel.

4. The city has the best and original Long Island Iced Tea, which Clark said dates back to Charlie “Old Man” Bishop. The bootlegger lived on Long Island, across the Holston River near where Riverfront stands today, and is said to have developed a Long Island Tea as far back as 1920, with his son, Ransom, making some improvements in the 1940s. In contrast, the New York version purportedly was created around 1972 by Robert “Rosebud” Butt, also known as Bob Butt.

For those who believe the New York origin story, Clark had three Southern words: “Bless your heart.” A man nearby held up a sign saying “1920 versus 1972.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

In an effort to settle the tie, Visit Kingsport Executive Director Jud Teague said he will talk with Yamall later in the year, probably in the fall, to determine the date and venue for the next taste test. Although Teague said the hope is to choose a place with connections to both Kingsport and New York, he said he has no idea where that might be.

For the record, it probably wasn’t too hard for the judges to tell which version of tea they had because, if for no other reason, of the “maple” effect: the New York version is a mixture of vodka, tequila, rum, gin, triple sec and cola. The Kingsport version is rum, vodka, whiskey, gin, tequila, maple syrup, lime, lemon and cola. 

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