Remembering Arnold Palmer Through His Namesake Drink (Plus Bourbon)

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In honor of Arnold Palmer, one of the greatest U.S. golfers to ever play the game, we're sharing a recipe for his namesake drink, with a little bourbon in there to boot. Palmer passed away at the age of 87 on Sunday, September 25, 2016. This article originally ran May 2015.

Today: Is a drink born when it’s conceived, or when it’s named? 

If you ask a group of golfers to tell you how the Arnold Palmer came to life, they’ll offer you a few dozen stories: Some about how it was a mistake, some about how iced tea nor lemonade is enough on its own, and others still about how it was made because of the Florida heat (a curious answer, but I’m not one to judge). 

It’s the kind of drink that can’t not be legendary; Palmer himself surely was. A premier golfer who won seven major golf championships throughout his prolific career, Palmer is still regarded as one of the best linksmen of all time. And he’ll tell you himself his namesake drink came to be in Latrobe, Pennsylvania with just a bit of ice tea and a few wedges of lemon. But then he’ll also add that he ordered it (not by name, of course) for the first time in Palm Springs, California, and that a lady at the neighboring table then asked for one, too, but called it by what it’s known today. And after that, the drink’s history didn’t matter—according to the story, it was an Arnold Palmer from then on. (Or was it?)  

All I know is that it’s more exciting to follow legend than to find the truth behind drink recipes (because most of the time, their origins are less than glamorous and more about experimentation). And we like a drink that’s got a good story—plus the bite of bourbon.

Our boozy version of the Arnold Palmer starts with a base of citrusy iced tea—and I mean the real kind, the kind where you steep a handful of strong black tea with a punch of orange and lemon zest. The smooth and the sharp get rounded out with a touch of sugar and topped with a splash of bourbon and lemon juice. 

Was it created in 1960, or wasn’t it? Was it really born on the back porch, or did it take shape at a clubhouse bar? More lemonade or more tea? You tell me—your history will be as believable as any. 

Tipsy Arnold Palmer

Serves 6 

4 cups boiling water
4 black tea bags
3/4 cup sugar
Strips of zest from 1 lemon
Strips of zest from 1 orange
4 cups cold water
1 cup Bulleit bourbon
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice 

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

Photo by James Ransom

We've partnered with thebar.com to bring you cocktail content for your home bar. Please enjoy responsibly. 

Tags: Cocktail, Iced Tea, Bourbon, Food History