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Arnold Palmers

All Photos: Kate Williams


Booze up your Arnold Palmer with these twists on the classic

A staple of Southern patios and backyards throughout the South, as well as the yearly Masters Tournament, the drink known as the Arnold Palmer is named for the legendary golfer. It's traditionally made with equal parts lemonade and sweet tea and served over plenty of ice for a thirst-quinching refresher you can drink all day long.

However delicious its components sound, poorly made Arnold Palmers abound. Whether the drink mixer is using too-sweet store-bought lemonade or — gasp — powdered tea (yes, this happens), this drink can far-too-often taste like dusty, flat soda water. No thank you.

It's a shame, too, because this tea and lemonade base can serve as a springboard for all kinds of delicious cocktails that are both refreshing and, well, relaxing. Vodka is a classic addition, but many different liquors — and complementary flavors, like ginger and mint — play nicely with the bittersweet flavors of the classic drink.

Our favorite way to serve 'em? Brew up a big batch of tea, squeeze a passel of lemons and stir up a few different flavors of simple syrup. Set pitchers of each component out on a bar with your favorite liquors and throw an Arnold Palmer party. It's a perfect setup for a Masters viewing party, or any spring or summer gathering you dream up.

To help, here's how we make a classic Arnold Palmer, plus three boozy variations to get your party started. (Don't, however, let these recipes hold you back — all of the components can be mixed and matched to your heart's content.)
Classic Arnold Palmer
We like our Arnold Palmers with a little more tea and just enough lemonade for balance. We've also upped the lemon flavor by making a lemon simple syrup, which is used to sweeten both the lemonade and the final drink itself. Feel free to sweeten to taste as you'd like — the beauty of the simple syrup is that you can add it to your iced-down drink and you'll never end up with sugar granules on the bottom of your glass.
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Bourbon-Mint Strong Palmer
A play on our other favorite springtime bourbon drink, the mint julep, this whiskey-filled Strong Palmer gets both mint syrup and fresh mint leaves to complement the black tea and lemonade. As will be the case with all of our boozy variations, we like this drink on the low-ABV (alcohol by volume) side, so we use only one ounce of bourbon per drink; feel free to add more as you'd like.
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Vodka-Ginger Strong Palmer with Blackberries
The name may be long but this drink will surely go quick. Between the spicy ginger simple syrup and sweet-tart blackberries, this rose-colored Strong Palmer offers far more sophisticated flavor than a spiked pitcher of tea. Don't be afraid of the more involved simple syrup recipe; steeping ginger rounds and adding fresh ginger juice will result in a full-flavored syrup that will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days. Make it ahead of time for easy prep the day of.
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Mezcal-Green Tea Strong Palmer
Our furthest departure from the classic Arnold Palmer, this smoky variation includes love-it-or-hate-it mezcal. (We love it.) To complement the liquor's earthy character, we've also fashioned this cocktail using green tea, instead of the classic black. Lemon simple syrup pairs well with both the green tea and the mezcal, but you can also make this drink with the ginger or mint syrups above. 
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Author image

Kate Williams is the former editor-in-chief of Southern Kitchen. She was also the on-air personality on our podcast, Sunday Supper. She's worked in food since 2009, including a two-year stint at America’s Test Kitchen. Kate has been a personal chef, recipe developer, the food editor at a hyperlocal news site in Berkeley and a freelance writer for publications such as Serious Eats, Anova Culinary, The Cook’s Cook and Berkeleyside. Kate is also an avid rock climber and occasionally dabbles in long-distance running. She makes a mean peach pie and likes her bourbon neat.