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The story behind the Arnold Palmer drink

Bottoms up.

Before there was an Arnold Palmer stamp, there was an Arnold Palmer drink.

The iconic golfer who was honored with a Forever stamp this month also has a beverage named after him — a classic concoction that combines iced tea and lemonade.

For years, there were different stories about how the beverage came to carry Palmer’s name, including one theory that he invented the drink in the dining hall at his alma mater, Wake Forest University.

Palmer set the record straight in a 2012 edition of ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary series, explaining that his late wife, Winnie, was making iced tea one day when he had a flash of inspiration.

“‘Hey babe, I’ve got an idea,’” he recalls telling Winnie. “‘You make the iced tea and make a big pitcher, and we’ll just put a little lemonade in it and see how that works.’”

Palmer loved the combination — and so did his fans, who helped popularize it.

One day in the late 1960s, while ordering lunch in a restaurant, Palmer asked the waitress for a mixture of iced tea and lemonade. A woman sitting nearby overheard the order and requested the same thing: “I’ll have that Arnold Palmer drink.”

Palmer, who also was a successful businessman and philanthropist, later established a long-term licensing arrangement with Arizona Beverages for the production of a commercial version of the drink in a variety of flavors.

Today, the company produces more than 400 million cans a year, according to Palmer’s website.

When making the drink at home, fans have their own preferences — some use unsweetened iced tea, while others like sweet tea — and there’s also a debate about how much lemonade to use.

Palmer had his opinions, too.

“Iced tea dominates the drink,” he says in the ESPN documentary. “And if it doesn’t, it’s not really right.”

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