Kingsport reclaims stake as home of the ‘Long Island Iced Tea’

Long Island of Kingsport (Source: City of Kingsport) 

If you are new to the area, you may think that Long Island Ice Tea has ties to only New York. The City of Kingsport would like to politely tell you,  ‘you’re off by at least 50 years.’

The city says it all began in the 1920s in the midst of prohibition. Charles Bishop, known as “Old Man Bishop”, is credited by many in the community with creating the original Long Island Iced Tea recipe.  Bishop reportedly lived on Long Island in Kingsport, just along the Holston River.  

Long Island, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a designated U.S. National Historic Landmark District, is an island in the Holston River in Kingsport. The island is about four miles in length and approximately half a mile wide. Long Island, established in 1760, was an important site for the Cherokee Indians, colonial pioneers and early settlers of the region.

According to historians, the island was well known for it colorful “characters and bootlegging activities.”  

Now, the City of Kingsport is reclaiming its place in history as the home of the original Long Island Iced Tea. 

“We feel pretty certain that a lot of people in Kingsport and in the region aren’t aware that the Long Island Iced Tea was born here (on Long Island),” said Jud Teague, Executive Director of Visit Kingsport. “The drink has a long and very interesting history and we just felt like it was time for us to embrace it and our role in its creation.”

His original recipe, as many would believe, is said to have “packed quite a punch”. Historians say Bishop was known as an illegal liquor distiller. It included five different liquors and simply maple syrup. 

His concoction for the Long Island Iced Tea included rum, vodka, whiskey, gin, tequila with a bit of maple syrup. It does not include triple-sec, like that New York version of the 1970s. 

In the 1940s, Bishop’s son, Ransom, who was said to have operated a still, tweaked his father’s recipe by adding lemon, lime, and cola. 

“The Bishops were definitely intriguing characters,” said Teague. “Despite the regulations at the time they were intent on producing flavorful concoctions and the Long Island Iced Tea was a product of their creativity. It has certainly stood the test of time.”

Here’s the recipe: 

  • 4 oz. Cola
  • Squeeze 1/2 Lemon & 1/2 Lime
  • 1 oz. Whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 oz. Tequila
  • 1/2 oz. Gin
  • 1/2 oz. Rum
  • 1 oz. Vodka

For more information about the city of Kingsport’s new tourism initiative, click here. 

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