During the hot summer months, my go-to drink is an Arnold Palmer (otherwise known as a half-and-half). This half iced tea, half lemonade hybrid combines the best features of each original beverage in a lighter, more refreshing form. Not sickeningly sweet or mouth-puckeringly sour, not too tannic.
While decent store-bought versions of the two basic components are certainly available, I’d rather make each of them myself. It doesn’t hurt that I have access to the (free) delicious lemons that hang temptingly over from my neighbor’s side of the fence to mine. And with a cabinet full of assorted loose-leaf and bagged teas, I just can’t bring myself to pay for the bottled stuff.
With valuable refrigerator real estate lost to, say, a watermelon coupled with multiple ears of corn, a three-pack of strawberries and a head or two of lettuce, there isn’t always room for two separate containers of iced tea and lemonade. The solution? Making a pre-mixed concentrate. Less water = less space in the fridge = more room for other stuff. During this season of barbecues and outdoor parties, this is especially important.
Making the concentrate takes some time but isn’t difficult. The first step is to steep quite a few tea bags in a relatively small amount of boiling water. After removing the tea bags, add sugar and simmer to make a simple syrup. To extract the most flavor out of the lemons as possible, add the zest to the syrup — this adds a fragrant floral component — and let it steep until the mixture has cooled to room temperature. Strain out the zest, add to the freshly squeezed lemon juice and refrigerate.
Now, whenever you’re ready for your drink, simply mix with some ice and water: instant summer refresher in a glass.
Arnold Palmer Concentrate
Makes 4 cups
This concentrate is enough to make 3 quarts or 12 drinks, and it doubles easily. For each serving, combine ½ cup concentrate to 1 cup cold water (flat or carbonated) and add ice as desired.
- Using a citrus zester or vegetable peeler, zest the lemons into a bowl; set aside. Cut the lemons in half crosswise. Using a reamer, juice the lemons and strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Discard seeds and pulp. Refrigerate the lemon juice (you should have about 1¾ cups).
- Place the tea bags in a small saucepan and add the 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and let steep for 3 minutes. Discard tea bags. Add the sugar to the tea and simmer over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Off heat, add the lemon zest and let steep until the sugar syrup has cooled to room temperature, 1 hour. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve; discard zest.
- Combine the tea simple syrup with the lemon juice. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to one week.
Sandra Wu is a San Francisco-based food writer, editor and recipe developer who currently works as a test kitchen cook at Williams-Sonoma’s corporate headquarters.
Photo: An Arnold Palmer made from concentrate. Credit: Sandra Wu