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Long Island Ice Tea
The Tennessee Story

Recently, author JS Moore wrote to me regarding the origin of the Long Island Ice Tea cocktail:

"Long Island Iced Tea isn't from New York at all. It first surfaced in the 1920's in a community called Long Island in Kingsport Tennessee.

The inventor of it was Old Man Bishop. He passed the recipe on to his son Ransom - who perfected the drink in the 1940's. This is a fact. The Teetotaler info is true - and the Click Bros. took the cocktail mainstream.

There was another drink from Long Island called Tap Water that has a different name these days, due to patrons not wanting to be poured water from the sink when they ordered it."

The Very Still is an excerpt from JS Moore's new book, Understanding Apples, (Outskirts Press, October 2006) which tells the Long Island Ice Tea story in a little more detail.

The Very Still
by JS Moore

Prohibition only drives drunkenness behind doors and into dark places, and does not cure it or even diminish it.
-Mark Twain

Ransom Bishop lived at 1612 Island Drive just beside the Sluice. He was a businessman who didn’t have to work because he collected a substantial income each month from various sources. His still was all the way across Chigger field and positioned on the Sluice. Actually, the still was across the Sluice and Long Island on Mr. Rodefer’s property. Don’t worry – the Bishops had to pay a toll and neither Clay Rodefer nor his own father ever went without. No one would have suspected a burned-out mercantile man like Ransom to be making home brew. But, truth be told, he was the cream of the crop on Long Island. And he was a perfectionist when it came to the taste of his liquor. His still produced a hundred gallons at a time and Bishop sold his product for a wholesale price of around seventy-five cents a half gallon to the Click Brothers. Ransom would run several trout lines out into the Sluice with the containers hooked to the line as well as some fish to keep it legit. Whenever he wanted a quart or twenty he’d bring in whatever was desired and some fish as well for dinner. The street value of a half gallon was more than double that and the Click Brothers couldn’t keep it stocked at Club 81 – their rough and tumble underground dive by the bridge on Hwy 81. Club 81 was on private property and signs were everywhere stating “trespassers will be shot on sight.” This kept the law away and it discouraged outsiders from Highland, Blair’s Gap, and other seedy areas from thinking they could come in unannounced or uninvited.

First and foremost Ransom Bishop was a salesman. It was said among those who had acquaintance with him that he was smooth enough to ball up any religion and sell it back to the church. My Papaw owed him money from a gambling debt and paid him every time the Eastman gave out bonuses. But Ransom had taken advantage of Judd Moore not knowing how to count when he cashed my Papaw’s paychecks at week’s end. He’d pay a carefree Judd with one dollar bills so it would look as if he was giving a lot back. Once Opal had taught Judd how to count, though, he knew he’d been swindled out of a small fortune. The salesman Ransom could not sell any excuse to Judd Moore and the tension between the two thereafter was evident, though it never came to blows between them.

Now Ransom Bishop, it is said many times over, was clever, the sharpest knife in the drawer. And I know writing this might send some rich businessman into a fit but it is the honest truth as I know it to be, and I will share it anyway. Ransom’s father was also a pretty smart feller and also a bootlegger and it is believed his father invented a certain drink, passed the recipe on to his son, and Ransom perfected the cocktail – which now has several variations. Long Island, New York would love to take credit for this one and still does to this day – since 1970 as a matter of fact. But as we all know - common people often times aren’t recognized for their ingenuity. Invented during Prohibition by Old Man Bishop and perfected by Ransom in the 1940’s:

Long Island Iced Tea

One fresh Lemon half
One fresh Lime half

Squeeze both into a pint glass

½ oz. Rum
1 oz. Vodka
1 oz. Whiskey
½ oz. Gin
½ oz. Tequila
½ oz. Maple Syrup

Mix Thoroughly Then pour in 4 to 5 oz. Soda Water (Coca-Cola, Pepsi, or RC Cola) without stirring.


Teetotaler drunks have a native Long Island, Tennessean to thank for their alcohol fix. Thank-you Ransom Bishop.

Suggested listening: Night Life by Ray Price

About the Book

Understanding Apples by JS Moore is about an area of Kingsport, Tennessee known as Long Island - once a sacred and holy ground to the Cherokee but cursed by the Native Americans when they forfeited their land.

"No man would find peace there."

Understanding Apples is a mere window of events - of what life was like thereafter - offering several stories during the Prohibition era.

The book will be available from Outskirts Press after October 13, 2006. It may be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Baker, Ingram, and Taylor, Books In Print, or anywhere books are sold.

Preorders can be made by contacting the author (replace words in parentheses with appropriate symbols):

JSMoore (at) charter (dot) net

Orders made before October 13th will come personalized.

About the Author

JS Moore was born in Kingsport on January 14, 1974. The younger of two boys, JS was known for his fast talking friendliness, which earned him the nickname "Auctioneer" by his grandfather.

As a child JS took interest in stories, both reading and telling them. At age thirteen he was in a storytelling group that traveled around the area sharing stories with anyone who might listen.

From childhood to adolescence JS developed a great bond with his grandfather, Judd Moore, who told him stories about what his rough-and-tumble life had been like.

And JS always told his Papaw that one day he was going to write a book about him. Tragically, Judd Moore was killed in an accident in 1991. The loss came as a surprise and over a decade passed before JS was ready start telling his Papaw's stories.

But in 2003, JS decided the time was right, and he began compiling the stories he loved so dearly as he was growing up.

It is those stories that he now shares with everyone in Understanding Apples.

Additional Information about Long Island Ice Tea

Long Island Ice Tea - Main page with brief discussion and recipes.

Long Island Ice Tea History - History, recipe & more info about JS Moore's claim.

How to Make a Long Island Ice Tea - Instructions and pictures

Loving Long Island Home

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