The legendary Arnold Palmer, who died Sunday at 87, was a dominant and influential golfer during his professional career in the 1950s and 1960s. But to the casual or non-sports fan, the name brings up another part of his legacy: Arnold Palmer, the drink.
How did the half-iced tea, half-lemonade beverage become so popular? ESPN’s 30 for 30 Shorts series in 2012 looked into the creation myth of the concoction. Curb Your Enthusiasm director Bryan Gordon asked a slew of pro golfers, fans on the street, and Will Arnett about their thoughts and reverence for the drink, but the most important talking head is the man himself.
Palmer shared it was no mistake, as one golfer posited. Palmer said he returned to his house after a day on the course and asked his wife, Winnie, to cut some of her home-brewed iced tea with a dash of lemonade, “and we’ll see how that works.” Once he found the proper ratio — Palmer took his with about 25-33 percent lemonade — he began bringing it a thermos to accompany him on the links.
Palmer even remembers how his name became affixed to the drink. After a hot 18 holes in Palm Springs, California, he went to lunch and asked for a mix of iced tea and lemonade. “All of a sudden, the waitress went over to another table, and the lady at the table said, ‘I want an Arnold Palmer,'” he said.
The obvious question that comes with having a drink named after someone is how do they order it. Is it weird to name-drop one’s name? It was awkward for Palmer, at first. When he tried to dance around and order an iced tea and lemonade, he recalled the waiter replied, “Oh, you want an Arnold Palmer!”
“I just finally said I won’t fight the battle anymore,” Palmer said. “I think maybe they won’t know who I am!”
See the short doc above, via Hulu, and an old SportsCenter commercial of Palmer making himself an Arnold Palmer below.