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A Long Island iced tea war: Freeport bartenders seek naming rights

Kingsport, Tennessee, claimed in a tourism campaign that the cocktail was invented there 50 years before the Long Island version.

A group of Freeport bartenders has declared “war” on a city in Tennessee. Bartenders from the Nautical Mile have challenged the city of Kingsport, Tennessee, for the naming rights to the Long Island iced tea. The Kingsport tourism board claimed in a recent campaign that the cocktail was actually invented in Long Island, Tennessee, 50 years before Robert Butt, a bartender at the Oak Beach Inn said he came up with the drink. Butch Yamali, owner of Hudson’s on the Mile, called Kingsport’s claim an affront to Butt and to all Long Islanders, in a letter he sent to the city’s mayor and tourism bureau Thursday. (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

A group of Freeport bartenders has declared “war” on a city in Tennessee.

Bartenders from the Nautical Mile have challenged the city of Kingsport, Tennessee, for the naming rights to the Long Island iced tea.

The Kingsport tourism board claimed in a recent campaign that the cocktail was actually invented in Long Island, Tennessee, 50 years before Robert Butt, a bartender at the Oak Beach Inn said he came up with the drink.

Butch Yamali, owner of Hudson’s on the Mile, called Kingsport’s claim an affront to Butt and to all Long Islanders, in a letter he sent to the city’s mayor and tourism bureau Thursday.

“Not since the ‘Battle of Long Island’ in the Revolutionary War has Long Island’s honor been so challenged,” Yamali wrote. “We on Long Island celebrate our beaches, our accents, and most of all, our booze.”

Yamali challenged the city’s bartenders to a “Battle for the Tea,” to be held on either the Nautical Mile or in Kingsport.

Whichever side pours the better Long Island iced tea — as judged by a group of blindfolded patrons — gets to claim the drink as its own. Yamali threw in terms for the loser, too: cleaning the winner’s bars and bathrooms and raising the winner’s state flag above the bar.

Amy Margaret McColl, the marketing manager for Visit Kingsport, said the agency is up for the challenge.

“We are excited about this challenge and anxiously await their invitation for the battle of this beverage,” McColl said. “Once we receive it, we will rally our troops, gather our ingredients and prepare to defend our original recipe.”

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