The Wholesome Origin Story Of Arnold Palmer's Iced Tea Lemonade

Pro golfing legend Arnold Palmer was as incredibly popular off the links as he was successful on them. He was the first player to win four Masters Tournaments and would go on to have 92 tournament wins in his long career. He was so popular in the 1950s and '60s that he made colorful alpaca cardigans a fashion staple and popularized a tea and lemonade drink that still bears his name. Palmer came up with his signature drink one day in the 1950s and loved it so much he would take it with him golfing.


It soon became a summer staple thanks to his huge fan base known as Arnie's Army. Then in 2001, Palmer took his version to market making it even more popular. The drink even inspired Miami-based Chef Jeff McInnis, who riffed on the ice tea and lemonade combo for his fried chicken recipe that includes a sweet tea and salt marinade, one of many creative ways to upgrade fried chicken.

The birth of the Arnold Palmer drink

Arnold Palmer recalled that one day, he asked his wife, Winnie Palmer, to make a pitcher of tea. "Hey, babe, I've got an idea," he recalled telling her during an "ESPN 30 for 30" short about the famous drink. "You make the iced tea and make a big pitcher, and we'll just put a little lemonade in it and see how that works." Work it did. After playing with the recipe, he hit on what he considered the perfect proportions: two-thirds unsweetened tea to one-third lemonade.


He began bringing the concoction in a thermos whenever he played golf. Palmer's drink stayed under the radar until sometime in the late 1960s when he ordered it at a restaurant after a day designing a nearby golf course in Palm Springs, California. A woman overheard his order. "I'll have that Palmer drink," she said. Palmer later recalled to ESPN that after that day, it "spread like wildfire." And if you decide to mix up some Arnold Palmers from scratch, try microwaving your lemons for more productive juicing when making the lemonade portion of the drink.

The other side of the Arnold Palmer

Not surprisingly, following the rise in popularity of Arnold Palmer's delicious concoction, bartenders began playing with the drink and turning it from a soft drink to something a bit harder. Among these are the classic Tipsy Palmer that includes bourbon mixed with lemonade and tea. Other versions include the L'Arnaud Palmer, which has cognac, lemon juice, and mint tea syrup.


In 2001, the golfer's company Arnold Palmer Enterprises began collaborating with the AriZona Beverage Company to bottle his signature drink, which supercharged its popularity. The brand's annual revenue is $200 million. Before his death at 87 in September 2016, Arnold Palmer continued to quaff Arnold Palmers on and off the green. And how does one go about ordering a drink that bears your name? "He leaned over and said, 'I'll have a Mr. Palmer.' Then he winked," a waitperson named Kelsey at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia told in 2013.