There has always been a signal for me when spring truly arrives, especially up here in gray, rainy Southeastern Connecticut. Actually, it's a confluence of events that gets me feeling like enjoying the great outdoors, and they all have to do with sports: Major League Baseball Opening Day, the NCAA Basketball Final Four, and the advertisements for professional golf's first major tournament, The Master's.
Coming up this Thursday morning, Augusta National Golf Club hosts the 84th installment of The Masters, and when the ceremonial tee shot takes place there will be a noticeable absence. Back in September of 2016, one of golf's legends and American mainstream icons, Arnold Palmer, passed away at the age of 87. He had not attended the event for a couple of years, but his presence was always felt. Palmer is largely responsible for helping pro golfers get paid the way that they do today, and he did a lot for the community in his hometown of Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
However, Palmer has a lasting legacy in another form...the cocktail (Ha...you thought I was going to say Pennzoil commericals). A non-alcoholic one, in fact, that can be enjoyed by anyone with functioning taste buds. The Arnold Palmer cocktail came to be after coming home and asking his wife if she could make a pitcher of (unsweetened) iced tea, but to add a quarter to a third of the volume as lemonade. As it turned out, it was incredibly refreshing and hit the spot so much that Palmer took a thermos of the drink with him on tour.
When Palmer requested this drink in Palm Springs on a 115-degree day while on tour, others overheard him order this drink and asked for what he was having, therefore associating the drink with the seven-time major tournament winner. The rest, as they say, is history.
If you want to check out the ESPN 30 for 30 short film produced that discusses how the Arnold Palmer came to be, check it out here. It is an entertaining nine minutes as Will Arnett (known to your kids as Lego Batman) is prominently involved.
So you can go ahead and have that drink as 2/3 unsweetened iced tea with 1/3 lemonade. After all, our livers need a break from booze periodically. But what if you want to add some spirit to make it more interesting? As always I have options for you. Just add 1.5 oz of any spirit below to make the Arnold Palmer a grown-up beverage.
Note that while the Arizona Beverage "Arnold Palmer" has become a staple at grocery and convenience stores, it is sweeter tasting and probably closer to a "half and half." Adjust the recommendations below according to your personal taste preference if you choose to go the already canned/bottled route.
Whether you are a golf fan, or don't really give a damn about the sport, I ask you to give one of these a shot (oh, the puns this week) when you make your Arnold Palmer.
If You Are A Vodka Person:
Vodka is clean and transparent with subtle flavors, so no flavor will ever really get in the way of a mixed drink, but some of those nuances can be the difference between a "good" and a "great" cocktail. A rye-based vodka like Belvedere complements the unsweetened tartness of the tea and lemonade. If you want to offset that sensation, go with a pot-distilled wheat vodka like Ketel One or Tito's. The richness and body of either of those will work wonderfully as a counter to the tea and lemonade.
If You Are A (Bourbon/Rye) Whiskey Person:
Maker's Mark is a wheated Bourbon that is soft and gentle and counter's the unsweetened tea very well. Jefferson's Small Batch is a fine choice for mixing, giving you the classic Bourbon vanilla sweetness. If you want something more aromatic and aggressive to get the juices flowing, try High West Distilling's Double Rye or Russell's 6 Year Rye. Any of these run you no more than $40 per bottle.
Note that Scotch whisky's malted barley base would clash with the flavors of the tea and lemonade; it's best to save that bottle of Johnnie Walker or Glenlivet for something else.
If You Are Italian Or Really Like Liqueurs:
Try some Limoncello in this! There are some great homemade recipes that you can find online if you want to undertake that yourself (which is currently in the works here at Castello d'Ambrosini). However, if you want to be able to grab something off of your local beverage mart's shelves, Distilleria Caffo makes a tremendous Limoncello that is not sticky sweet and, well...tastes lemony! Best of all, you can find this for roughly $20...you and I both know that you have burned $20 on something without thinking of it before. Why not spend that on an artisanally-crafted liqueur?