The war between Tennessee and New York over the claim to having invented the cocktail known as the Long Island Iced Tea will come to a head on June 27, 2018 at 3 p.m. EDT, in what future historians who drink will remember as “The Battle of the Tea.”
The brouhaha between Long Island, TN and Long Island, NY is old news. In New York, the story has long held that the first Long Island Iced Tea (a.k.a. LIIT) was crafted by Bob “Rosebud” Butt in 1972, during Butt’s time tending bar at the Oak Beach Inn in Long Island, New York. For his part, Butt will hear none of your nonsense about anyone other than himself being the drink’s inventor. To support his stance, he has gone so far as having created a website to publicize the claim, and registering his car with a vanity license plate reading “LI ICE T”. Ask a Tennesseean, however, and they’ll offer a conflicting tale stating that the first LIIT actually came about during the 1920’s Prohibition, roughly half a century prior to Butt’s alleged creation. This version of the story credits one Charles “Old Man” Bishop of Long Island in the community of Kingsport, Tennessee as the inventor. Despite subtle ingredient variances, each locale claims to be the rightful birthplace of the powerful brew, which comprises core ingredients of clear liquors vodka, gin, tequila, light rum, and triple sec, a splash of cola (for color), and sour mix.
The conflict in this tale of two Long islands reached a fever pitch, however last month, when New York bar owner Butch Yamali threw down a gauntlet in the form of an open letter to the town of Kingsport, calling the Tennessee locale to either put up or shut up via a Long Island Iced Tea making/tasting contest to be held in either state. Among the terms of the challenge issued in Yamali’s missive, were that the winner secures indisputable rights to recognition as the cocktail’s birthplace, and that the loser be tasked with cleaning the victor’s bar and bathrooms, and must raise the winner’s state flag above their establishment.
Kingsport, not to be outdone or intimidated, clapped back the same day with a letter of its own addressed to Yamali, accepting the challenge, and returning no less than seven parades’ worth of shade. That exchange has brought us to this moment.
The battleground chosen for this first of two battles (one to be decided in each state) is Yamali’s bar, Hudson’s on the Mile, (340 Woodcleft Ave, Freeport, New York) in the nightlife-rich area known as the Freeport Nautical Mile. The flags of both states will fly during the competition, with residents and bar customers acting as blind judges of the libations entered in the grudge match. A local minister will be on hand to offer an opening prayer for Long Island to retain the naming rights of the famed cocktail. Law enforcement officials will be present as well for crowd control, and one might presume, for keeping the peace among both sides after the result is decided. Also in attendance will be Village of Freeport Mayor Robert T. Kennedy and Kingsport Former Mayor Dennis Phillips, as well as Hudson’s on the Mile bar staff and local bartenders/owners and restaurant staffers from Kingsport, Tennessee.
The second round of the competition will take place in Kingsport, TN on July 13th during the annual Kingsport Fun Fest event.
This article first appeared on FlavorfulWorld.com.