I was born in Seattle in early 1999, but have essentially grown up an Atlantan after my family moved here in November 2001.
The only roots I really have left of Seattle are the Seahawks, Mariners and a couple family friends.
I’ve tried to recoup some photographic memories that I can’t tell if they’re real or not by walking the streets in Google Maps. Everything else is Atlanta for me.
So, by growing up in Atlanta, the South, that meant sweet tea was on basically every menu.
It was the easy choice at restaurants. It was usually sweeter than I anticipated it would be (which is the absolute best when you’re six).
If a family member ever made sweet tea, I knew I was drinking at least three glasses of it in one sitting.
There wasn’t, and dare I say still isn’t, a moment where gulping down a bunch of sweet tea sounded like a bad idea.
But before I had any clue that tea, sweet or unsweet, existed, I was very aware of lemonade and how delicious it is. Lemonade became almost a given no matter where I was.
Until my taste buds evolved to a more mature point, nothing could beat a can of Minute Maid Lemonade at the pool in summer. I don’t drink that particular brand now, but I’m still a sucker for the Country Time mix, which was secretly my actual favorite when I knew it was available.
The Arnold Palmer was a drink I was not aware of until I think I was ten.
I don’t remember the actual day I had my first one, but it changed the entire landscape of my default drink.
The sweetness of the tea and the acidity of the lemonade creates a 1+1 = 3 miracle drink.
It’s honestly a better combination than peanut butter and chocolate.
The only time either component of the drink is better alone is when the lemonade is of poor quality (aka, if it’s Minute Maid), which inherently means the sweet tea can’t mess it up.
I haven’t done the kind of scientific research to understand this fully, but sweetness level has never been too much for me no matter where I get my Arnold Palmer’s from.
A quick aside for those that don’t know; Arnold Palmer was the most famous American golfer until Tiger Woods.
The legend goes he liked the mixture, and eventually the drink acquired his name as people knew he liked ordering it at golf clubs.
I imagine in the next 50 to 100 years, the story will change like any other legend.
But back to the drink itself. Once I knew what the drink was and that I preferred it over any non-alcoholic beverage, perfecting it became a never-ending side quest for me.
At restaurants with wait staff, I let them make it on their own to see how they do it. At places I can make it myself, I always do.
Unfortunately, most fast-food style spots use Minute Maid since it’s easy to get, which I don’t use anymore. If there’s homemade or some other brand, it’s gonna be much better.
On the question of whether pink lemonade works: I tried it once, and it just felt weird.
I would need to try it more often to get a good idea of if it works.
Considering it’s still the same lemonade with just a different color, it’s fine.
The most important part is the ratio. Traditionally, this drink comes half and half.
That is not the way to go unless only unsweet tea is available to use.
Lemonade tends to pack a bigger punch than the sweet tea, so I’ve always favored having more sweet tea than lemonade.
Arnold Palmer preferred the same himself. My ratio that I currently like best is 3/8 lemonade, 5/8 sweet tea.
The order of how it’s poured matters too.
I put ice in the glass first, only about a third full.
The lemonade is next, and my default rule with that is to fill it until it fills most of the space between the ice cubes, but leaves at least the entirety of the empty space with no ice free for the sweet tea.
This ratio gets just enough lemonade to get the mix to the signature Arnold Palmer flavor.
The tea gets the sweetness level to the right threshold. If there’s too much lemonade, the mix is off-color lemonade.
If there’s not enough lemonade, the mix will taste weird.