The Arnold Palmer is one of those perfect drinks. Made from just iced tea and lemonade, it’s sweet but with just enough sharpness from the lemons to balance it out—plus, it’s usually caffeinated. You can use homemade tea and lemonade and adjust them to your liking, or pick both up at the store and mix up a drink in minutes.
An Arnold Palmer can be altered to meet your taste on any given day. More tea? More sweetness? You can change the ratios, but you’ll always recognize an Arnold Palmer.
What Is an Arnold Palmer?
The Arnold Palmer was named after its credited inventor, pro golfer Arnold Palmer. The short version of the story is that Palmer asked his wife to add a splash of lemonade to his iced tea, and he apparently liked it so much that he started ordering it out.
One day (sometime in the 1960s), his drink order was overheard by another customer. After a few “I’ll have what he’s having,” the drink caught on.
The Arnold Palmer Ratio
Palmer’s original recipe calls for just a splash of lemonade, something like roughly an 8:1 ratio, or 1 cup of iced tea to 2 tablespoons of lemonade. Nowadays, if you go to a restaurant and order an Arnold Palmer, you’re very likely to get a drink that is 1:1, a much sweeter version.
For an Arnold Palmer, I like a ratio of 1 part lemonade to 2 parts iced tea. No version is the wrong version! You’ll be the one drinking it, so use a ratio of iced tea to lemonade that suits your tastes.
The Best Tea for an Arnold Palmer
Tea plays a starring role, and you have many options. Standard iced tea is made with black tea. This could be an Assam—my personal favorite—or a Ceylon or Darjeeling—these are among the most popular unflavored black teas and will give you a classic flavor.
Assam is the boldest of these, and I like how the tea flavor stands up to the lemonade. Ceylon is softer and blends well with the lemonade as it has a fruity flavor. Darjeeling falls somewhere between the two.
The Best Lemonade for an Arnold Palmer
When it comes to lemonade, I like a nice tart bite in addition to the sweetness. I use Eureka lemons, but you could also do a mix of Eureka and Meyer if you want a naturally sweeter and less tart lemonade.
I also use organic cane sugar to sweeten the lemonade, which results in a darker lemonade due to the residual presence of molasses. (Using superfine or standard granulated sugar will give you a brighter-colored lemonade.)
Although I’ve given you the homemade versions of both the tea and the lemonade, the ratios here will work just as well with your favorite store-bought iced tea and lemonade, making this a super quick drink to whip up when you want one.
Variations on the Arnold Palmer
Now that you can pour yourself a standard Arnold Palmer, let’s mix it up! Here are a few of the ways I enjoy modifying the drink:
- Make it mint. Blanch one bunch of mint in boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds, pat them dry, then combine the leaves (compost the stems) with one cup of simple syrup in a blender for 30 seconds. Strain, bottle the syrup, and refrigerate it for up to a month. Add a tablespoon or two to your Arnold Palmer for a refreshing minty twist.
- Swap the black tea for green. This is an easy switch that still tastes great with lemonade. Try it with sencha, a savory green tea, or jasmine—a lighter-bodied, floral tea.
- Or swap for herbal tea. My go-to herbal swap is dried hibiscus flowers that I cold brew overnight (1/2 cup flowers + 4 cups cold water).
- Make it boozy. Add 1 to 2 ounces of whiskey to a black tea Arnold Palmer for a boozy take on the drink. Alternatively, 1 to 2 ounces of tequila added to a hibiscus Arnold Palmer is equally tasty.
Cold Drinks for a Hot Day
- Easy Limeade
- Ginger Switchel
- Cold Brew Coffee
- Hibiscus Spritz
- Raspberry Lime Rickey
To make an Arnold Palmer:
Combine the ingredients:
Fill a glass 2/3 full with ice. Add the black iced tea and lemonade and mix just to combine.
Garnish with lemon slices, if desired. Serve.
To make homemade black iced tea and lemonade:
Cold brew the tea leaves:
In a nonreactive container (like glass), combine the tea leaves and 4 cups of water. Gently stir to combine and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours. (Taste the tea at 8 hours—if you’d like it to taste stronger, continue to steep.)
Strain and chill:
Strain the mixture into a pitcher. Refrigerate for up to 5 days or use immediately.
Juice the lemons:
Squeeze lemons over a bowl with a sieve on top to catch any seeds. Squeeze until you have 1/2 cup of juice. Set aside.
Make the simple syrup:
In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of water and the sugar over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. This should yield approximately 3/4 cup of simple syrup.
Combine the ingredients:
In a pitcher, combine the cooled simple syrup, remaining 1 cup of water, and lemon juice. Stir to combine and refrigerate for up to 1 week, or use immediately.
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