Leave it to Arnold Palmer to be self-deprecating about the drink that carries his name.
He may not have been the first person to combine iced tea and lemonade, but without Arnold Palmer, how would people have ordered it? Now, on the day after his death at the age of 87, Palmer is being remembered for a legendary golfing career and personality that popularized and commercialized the game. That illustrious career coincided, happily, with a time when TV was taking hold and among the many, many things Palmer is being lauded for, one of the coolest is the beverage that carries his name.
He got the idea, he said in an “ESPN 30 for 30” short, one day when his late wife, Winnie, made iced tea and inspiration struck like a thunderbolt.
“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 in it 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.’ ”
It was addictive and, one day in the 1960s, it became “the Arnold Palmer.”
According to his website, Palmer requested the drink after a hot day of golf in Palm Springs. This being Arnold Palmer, he merely ordered the drink by description. He wasn’t about to say, “I’ll have a me.” A woman seated nearby thought that sounded refreshing and drew everyone’s attention when she requested “an Arnold Palmer.”
“I was embarrassed to ask for an Arnold Palmer,” the golfer said. “I’d always say, ‘Can I have an iced tea and put about a third of it in lemonade. They said, ‘Oh, you want an Arnold Palmer!’
“I won’t fight the battle anymore. I’ll just ask for an Arnold Palmer [and] think maybe they won’t know who I am.”
Fat chance of that.
Arnold Palmer Enterprises and the AriZona Beverage Company have been selling the drink in cans that feature his name and face since 2001. They use a “half and half” approach, which seems a little off from his description of two parts iced tea to one part lemonade, but it’s a recipe. That means you can alter it to taste, but Palmer was adamant that “iced tea has the dominant side.” And if it doesn’t? “It isn’t really right.” His preference ran from one-fourth to one-third lemonade.
If yours runs to alcohol, Bon Appetit offers an “Arnie’s Gimlet Slush” concoction that gets rave reviews from The Post’s blog pod mixologist: Combine six ounces vodka, five ounces simple syrup, four ounces chilled brewed black tea and three ounces fresh lime juice with two cups ice. Throw into a blender, mix and drink. Drink again, probably.
By 2013, Palmer saw the humor in his little recipe for success. At the Masters, a waitress told NJ.com that “he leaned over and said, ‘I’ll have a Mr. Palmer.’ Then he winked.”