Arnold Palmer is regarded as one of the best golfers in history. Palmer won an astonishing 95 tournaments during his professional career on the PGA Tour, and was one of the original 13 inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame. However, his name lives on not only through his golfing legacy, but also through the famous drink that bears his name.
At one time or another, most of us have ordered an "Arnold Palmer" while at dinner, or on the golf course. But few know the history of the famous drink, or how it came to be.
The drink was indeed invented one unassuming afternoon while Palmer was at home having lunch with his wife. He tells the story; "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...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.'"
The drink idea began to quickly circulate around his home club in Latrobe, Pennsylvania and at Palmer's every stop on on the PGA Tour. One day the golfer asked the waitress for an "iced tea, with about a third or a quarter of it lemonade." A woman at the next table overheard him and told her server, "I want an Arnold Palmer." From there, says Palmer, "it spread like wildfire."
In 2012, AriZona Ice Tea purchased the rights to the "Arnold Palmer" and began to mass market the drink in stores around the world. But no matter how popular the drink has gotten, nor numerous the variations, Palmer always maintained that his AP was to be made to his original specifications. "Sure, you can customize your tea-lemonade hybrid however you want, but if you want to drink it Palmer's way, go heavier on the tea, lighter on the 'ade. Oh, iced tea has the dominant side, that dominates the drink, and if it doesn't, it isn't really right."
Dave Arnold, the founder of the the Museum of Food & Drink points out that "the issue with the etymology of drinks is that they're almost always bullsh**it." Multiple stories abound about who invented which drink and when and how. But "the question isn't who did it first," adds Arnold. "The question is, why are you drinking it now? And the reason you're drinking it now is Arnold Palmer."
Sadly, Arnold Palmer passed away on September 25, 2016. But his memory will live on through his professional achievements, the countless lives he touched with his philanthropic efforts and, of course his famous drink.