The Arnold Palmer: How to Make One and How it Got it's Name

DID ARNOLD PALMER, THE GOLFER, INVENT ARNOLD PALMER, THE DRINK? I think we can safely say no. Lemon and tea have been enjoyed together for centuries. Surely Arnie, in the 1950s, was not the first person who ever combined cold, unsweet tea with cold, sweet lemonade. But what we can say with certainty is that Palmer the golfer popularized and made famous the tea-and-lemonade drink that now bears his name.

            It was in the mid-1950s that Palmer, he once told ESPN, began mixing tea and lemonade at home. Within a few years, Palmer took the drink public by requesting it in restaurants and golf course clubhouses. There was no name for the drink when Palmer first started doing this, so he would describe what he wanted to a waiter or bartender.    

 A commonly told tale is that it happened during the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills Country Club in Colorado, when otherpatrons overhead Palmer telling a bartender how to make him his favorite drink. However, Palmer describes what he believes is how the drink got its name in a 2012 ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts documentary, Arnold Palmer describes the story in which he believes gave the refreshing iced tea-lemonade its famous name:

Arnold Palmer won his first PGA Tour tournament in 1955. In 1958, he won The Masters, and it was there that he became a superstar and the rabid legion of fans known as “Arnie’s Army” was born. He played the British Open for the first time in 1960, taking his stardom global. 

"One evening after a long day of designing a course in Palm Springs (Calif.) during the 1960s, Arnold Palmer stepped up to a bar and asked the bartender for a mixture of lemonade and iced tea. A woman sitting next to him overheard what he ordered and told the bartender, “I’ll have that Palmer drink.” The men overheard and thought “What is she talking about?” She repeated, “I want what he is having.” 

Palmer told ESPN that "from that day on, it spread like wildfire."

            The AriZona Beverage Company started distributing the “Arnold Palmer” drink in 2002 and since then, expanded the line with different flavors including DRIVE, a performance energy drink. His AriZona line also consists of powder sticks and water enhancers. Other beverage companies also sell lemonade-and-tea drinks, typically mixed 50-50, but without the Palmer name. Sweet Leaf, Snapple, Country Time and Lipton are among those brands. While many restaurants and bars offer the Arnold Palmer or variations, some coffee and fast food chain restaurants have gotten into the act, too. Starbucks, for example, has tea-and-lemonade mixes on offer, and in 2014 Dunkin Donuts was offering and “Arnold Palmer Coolatta” frozen drink. The Arnie drink becomes more well-know all the time.  

Also ...

  • The Arnold Palmer drink is often called a "Half and Half" when the mix is 50-50. It is also the primary name in Baltimore and other parts of the Southern United States
  • If you want a really sweet Arnold Palmer, you can mix equal parts of lemonade and sweet tea. And if you do that, you can call this version a "Winnie Palmer" (named after Arnold's first wife).
  • Palmer has said that for years he was too embarrassed to order the drink by name - "I'll have an Arnold Palmer" - and so kept describing what he wanted to wait staff. But eventually The King gave in and started ordering his eponymous drink by name.
  • The "Arnold Palmer" name is starting to be applied to food items, too, that use a tea-and-lemon flavor palate. Do a search of the Web for "Arnold Palmer recipe" and you'll find cakes, cupcakes, ice creams, sorbets and others.

About Sports: "The Arnold Palmer: How to Make One and How It Got Its Name,, ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts: Arnold Palmer Documentary