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Tennessee and New York feud over Long Island iced tea’s origin

iStock/Thinkstock
iStock/Thinkstock

(NEW YORK) — Kingsport, Tennessee, is staking a claim on the Long Island iced tea.

The city of Kingsport claims the popular cocktail was created in 1920s Prohibition-era Long Island, an island in the Holston River in Kingsport, by the likes of a man named Charlie “Old Man” Bishop, an illegal liquor distiller.

In a video from Visit Kingsport, a man acting as Ransom Bishop, Charlie’s son, describes Charlie making one of his “special batches” with rum, vodka, tequila, whiskey, gin and a little bit of maple syrup.

The video adds that Ransom tweaked the recipe in the 1940s, adding lemon, lime juice, and cola or soda water. It concludes with Ransom saying, “And remember, don’t mess with the original!”

But New York isn’t going down with a fight. Maggie Lacasse, director of communications at New York’s Discover Long Island, told ABC News that Robert “Rosebud” Butt invented the Long Island iced tea on Long Island, New York in the ’70s. Lacasse said he created the cocktail as part of a contest while working at the Oak Beach Inn on Long Island.

Lacasse didn’t dispute the story of Charlie Bishop’s cocktail but insisted it’s a different drink from New York’s Long Island iced tea, which contains triple sec. Bishop’s concoction excludes this ingredient and adds whiskey and maple syrup.

Visit Kingsport Marketing Manager Amy Margaret McColl disagrees.

“Our claim is that Charlie Bishop developed the Long Island iced tea in 1920, nearly 50 years before Mr. Butt claimed that he was the inventor of the beverage,” McColl told ABC News.

And while she isn’t sure if Bishop himself coined the name “Long Island iced tea,” McColl added with a laugh, “We’ve been doing this for 50 years before you all even thought about it.”

But, McColl said, Kingsport has a plan in place to respond to the New York Long Islanders. She said she’s heard a that a bartender in Long Island, New York, will challenge bartenders from Kingsport in a competition for the best Long Island iced tea.

“We plan on accepting the challenge,” she said.

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