How exactly did a mixed glass of iced tea and lemonade come to share a moniker with the late legendary golfer, Arnold Palmer?
There are countless rumors, including the most common that it was a happy accident — like the Slinky or Penicillin. But a few years before his death in 2016 at age 87, Palmer set the record straight in an “ESPN 30 for 30” short documentary.
“My wife made a lot of iced tea for lunch, and I said, ‘Hey, Babe, I’ve got an idea. You make the iced tea and make a big pitcher, and we’ll just put a little lemonade it in and see how that works.’ We mixed it up, and I got the solution about where I wanted it, and I put the lemonade in it. I had it for lunch after working on the golf course. I thought, ‘Boy, this is great, Babe. I’m going to take it when I play golf. I’m going to take a thermos of iced tea and lemonade.”
But how did the drink achieve its status as Americana icon?
According to his website, Palmer requested the drink after playing a round of golf on a particularly hot day. The Arnold Palmer had yet to be named, so he ordered it by description — asking for a glass filled about two-thirds of the way with iced tea and about one-third or one-quarter lemonade.
A woman sitting nearby overheard his order and told the waitress, “I’ll have that Arnold Palmer drink.”
“From that day on, it spread like wildfire,” Palmer remembered.
The Arnold Palmer’s rise in popularity is almost certainly a credit to the man himself. Palmer was a national hero in the 1960’s and while people admired his winning golf record, it was his humility and sincerity that made him someone people liked and felt they could trust. His fan club, “Arnie’s Army,” cheered him on through every tournament in his career but also in his personal life.
In 2002, the AriZona Beverage Co. began selling the “Arnold Palmer.” Sales have continued to increase year after year.
Today, if you order an Arnold Palmer, you’re likely to receive a drink made in just about any balance of iced tea and lemonade. But Palmer had a strong opinion about the ratio.
“Iced tea has the dominant side. That dominates the drink. And if it doesn’t, it isn’t really right.”
Palmer may not have been the first person to dream up the drink, but thanks to his nationwide appeal, we know what to call it. So the next time you order summer’s most refreshing drink, raise that frosty glass to the man who made it all possible.