The Best Arnold Palmer (Half and Half Iced Tea + Lemonade) Recipe

This Arnold Palmer has a bold, rich tea flavor and a deeply tangy lemon profile.

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Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Why It Works

  • Maceration allows lemon rinds to express their natural oil, creating a more aromatic and flavorful drink.
  • This no-cook technique dissolves sugar without any need for firing up the stove.
  • Weight measurements ensure the perfect ratio of sugar to citrus, despite natural variations in fruit size.
  • From the bowl and strainer to the pitcher, nonreactive equipment prevents the flavor of the lemons from turning harsh.
  • Rather than diluting the lemonade with water, this Arnold Palmer gets intense flavor from mellow cold-brewed tea.

Pretty much every time I've had an Arnold Palmer—that mix of iced tea and lemonade that's sometimes called a "half and half"—it's been disappointing. They're often tinny with the taste of instant powdered tea, or bitter from over-brewed bags, and hinting at the scent of lemon floor cleaner from whatever crystallized stuff went into the lemonade. Even made fresh, they never measure up to the Arnold Palmer in my mind.

The ideal version would have rich tea flavor: tea with a backbone (but not unpleasant astringency or bitterness). It would have bright, fresh, real lemon in there, tart and tangy and sweetened just enough to make it drinkable by the pitcher. The mix would be bold and flavor-packed, not like bad tea and bad lemonade hiding in a glass of watery ice, hoping the combination can redeem them.

And it turns out that the secrets to the Arnold Palmer of my dreams were hiding here on Serious Eats all this time.

Not-So-Secret #1: The Best Iced Tea

A glass of iced tea with a pitcher of ice tea on the background.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Iced tea should be clean-tasting and refreshing, highlighting the smooth, rich flavors of your tea without putting bitterness and astringency upfront. Brewing your tea hot is not the way to get there. Chilling down hot tea leaves you with what my colleague Max described as stale, "bitter mulch water." And the Japanese iced coffee method—brewing the tea at double strength, then pouring directly over ice to dilute—gives you tea that tastes both over-extracted and watered down. Max's tests and Kenji's earlier ones suggest that the best-tasting iced tea doesn't come from chilling down hot tea, or letting your tea brew in the sun. Sun tea is romantic and all—we can all picture our grandmothers lovingly setting it out to brew—but it actually doesn't taste as good, and it's not as safe from bacteria as tea that brews in your fridge.

There's nothing complicated about cold-brewed tea: You plop four tea bags—or a fat tablespoon of loose tea—in a quart of water. (I like to use big Mason jars for this, since they seal nicely, but it actually doesn't matter whether you brew in glass, plastic, or aluminum, as long as you serve your tea from a glass.) Let the mixture chill out in the refrigerator for five hours. Strain or remove the tea bags. Drink immediately, or store in the fridge for up to three days.

Or, hold up. Don't drink it yet. Because the tea is even better when mixed with...

Not-So-Secret #2: The Most Flavorful Lemonade

A glass of lemonade with a wedge of lemon to decorate. On the background is a pitcher of lemonade.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

You might have spotted Stella's method for the best homemade limeade. The key is that this stuff isn't your standard lime juice, water, and sugar mix. Instead, the sugar's dissolved into an intense syrup, made by simply stirring the juiced citrus rinds with sugar and leaving them at room temp for a while. The sugar draws the aromatic essential oils out of the rinds, adding complex flavor to the drink once it's mixed with lime juice and a little cold water.

What works for limes works for lemons, too, and, ta-da, we have our ultimate lemonade recipe. Enjoy.

Or, hold up. Before you add that water, decide if you really do want lemonade or if you're craving a little A.P. action.

The Final Touch: The Proper Mix

Top down view of a glass of Arnold Palmer.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

You can mix our cold-brewed iced tea and our finished lemonade together, and the results are fine. But the best Arnold Palmer requires slightly different proportions. Instead of adding cold water to your lemon rind syrup and fresh lemon juice mixture, you'll do the dilution with the tea that you've brewed in your fridge. A quart of cold tea is just right for contributing a backdrop of earthy, silky black tea and keeping the mix from tasting watery or bland.

Popping with complex fresh-lemon flavor, this is intense stuff—which is great, since you'll want to pour it into tall cups of ice when the weather's hot. Bring the cups and pitcher to your patio, and offer a bottle of bourbon on the side. Guests can doctor their drinks with booze or leave them nonalcoholic, depending on their preferences (and plans for the rest of the afternoon).

June 2016

Recipe Facts

Active: 35 mins
Total: 4 hrs
Serves: 6 servings

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Ingredients

  • 3 pounds (1.3kg) lemons (10 to 14 medium lemons)

  • 14 ounces sugar (2 cups; 400g)

  • 4 cups cold-brewed black tea

Directions

  1. Bring lemons to room temperature, then roll firmly against the counter to soften their rinds. Halve and juice; pour juice into a sealable container and refrigerate. Cut rinds into 1-inch chunks. Toss with sugar in a large nonreactive mixing bowl, cover tightly with plastic, and let stand at room temperature, stirring once every 45 minutes or so, until sugar has completely dissolved, about 3 hours. (You can let the mixture stand up to 12 hours, if desired.)

  2. Add 8 ounces (1 cup) of reserved lemon juice to rind mixture. Stir well, then strain through a nonreactive fine-mesh strainer or piece of cheesecloth into a glass or ceramic container. At this point, the concentrated lemonade can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

  3. When ready to serve, pour concentrated lemonade and cold-brewed tea into a pitcher and stir. Serve in ice-filled glasses.

Special Equipment

Cheesecloth or nonreactive fine-mesh strainer, 2-quart pitcher

Notes

You will likely have some fresh lemon juice left over, which can be reserved for another use or added to individual glasses to make Arnold Palmer more tart to taste.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
269 Calories
0g Fat
70g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 269
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 1mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 70g 25%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 68g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 16mg 79%
Calcium 3mg 0%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 76mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)