Spiked Arnold Palmer Chicken

Spiked Arnold Palmer Chicken, plated for sharing.

Break out the bourbon, it’s time to grill some Spiked Arnold Palmer Chicken. Brined with sweet tea and lemon, the drumsticks are glazed with maple bourbon sauce, hitting the spot during the summer months.

Just when I thought grilled chicken couldn’t get better, there was this sweet tea brine. Don’t get me wrong, cooking with bourbon is very fun, but I have to admit that the sweet tea, lemon, and maple really just push the flavors over the edge.

I had seen a recipe for sweet tea fried chicken, where the chicken was brined with black tea, lemons, brown sugar, and spices before being fried. It reminded me of my favorite summer drink: The Arnold Palmer.

My first tests of this recipe were tasty, but they were lacking depth. Ironically, I was drinking a spiked Arnold Palmer when eating the chicken and realized that this just needed bourbon. Let’s face it, bourbon was the answer.

Speaking of, go check out this other bourbon-inspired recipe for Maple Bourbon Glaze with Chicken Drumsticks. It’s a MUST. This recipe uses butterflied chicken drumsticks, which are ideal for carrying a lot of flavors.

Let's grab a butterflied chicken drumstick

Spiked Arnold Palmer Chicken Flavors

This recipe uses the trending method for butterflied chicken drumsticks. Exposing the meat allows for the brine to penetrate into every bite much quicker, completely seasoning the meat inside and out. You could brine chicken wings, thighs, breasts, or the whole dang bird if you wanted to. Chicken drumsticks are affordable and easy to grill, which is why they were chosen for this recipe.

Sweet Tea Brine

The first step is to brew the tea in the water. Boil the water and pour it into a large, heatproof bowl with the tea bags. Make sure to reserve 1/4 cup of tea for the glaze. Once the tea is brewed, whisk in the sugar and salt so they melt. Add the rest of the ingredients into the brine. Allow the brine to cool to room temperature before adding the chicken.

  • 2 Lipton family-size iced tea bags (unsweetened)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced 
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced 
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary (optional)

NOTE: You can use fresh rosemary, just be aware the flavor tends to be much stronger than dried.

Sweet tea brine for the chicken drumsticks

Next, it’s time to prep the butterflied chicken drumsticks. The process will take a few minutes of your time, but it’s absolutely worth it. Simply slice down the side of the drumstick with a sharp knife, along the length of the bone. Do this twice, on each side of the bone to open up the meat. Add the chicken to the brine once it’s cool, and marinade for at least 4 hours, up to overnight.

Steps to Butterfly Chicken Drumsticks

STEP 1: Slice the correct side. Flip the chicken drumstick to the side with the meat exposed at the top (see images below). This is the side to cut, which has less skin. It’s not a game-breaker if you slice the wrong side, but I’ve found the skin crisps up nicer if you do it this way.

STEP 2: Slice along with the bones. Using a sharp knife, make 1 slice into the meat along the side of the bone. Be careful not to cut all the way through. Make a second cut along the other side of the bone, separating the meat so that it opens up flat. The bone should be completely exposed. Make sure to keep the meat attached to the bone, do not slice off the top, or the meat from the back of the bone.

Open it up and it’s ready to be seasoned for the grill!

Grilling the Drumsticks

If you are grilling the butterflied chicken drumsticks immediately, lightly coat them in oil and season them.

If you are grilling your chicken drumsticks later, place them on a wire rack. Season them generously and allow them to refrigerate uncovered for at least 2 hours up to overnight. Lightly oil just before grilling.

Brining and Seasoning the Chicken

The brine might be pretty flavorful, but a little spice rub takes it up a notch. Use this recommended blend of spices below, or a mild seasoning that you prefer. The brine will impart a lot of wonderful flavor to the chicken, so the seasoning doesn’t need to be too strong. Remember, there’s a glaze coming!

Take the chicken out of the brine and pat it very dry with paper towels. I like to apply the seasoning and pop the chicken into the fridge for an hour, which dries them out a little more to help achieve a crispier skin. Use a wire rack with a baking sheet for the best effect, allowing it to dry out on all sides.

Simple Chicken Seasoning

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar: The sweetness adds just enough caramelization to the skin, while “sweetening” the iced tea brine flavors.
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt: This might seem like a lot, but the recipe is considering 4 pounds of chicken. Adjust as needed.
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder: Just enough garlic to add a savory aromatic with each bite.
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper: Lemon pepper flavors work well with this combination.
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika: It’s more than just color, the touch of smoke pairs well with the bourbon.
Seasoning the butterflied chicken drumsticks after the brine

Grilling the butterflied chicken drumsticks

Remove the chicken from the fridge about 20 minutes before they are expected to hit the grill. Fire up the grill to medium-high heat and make sure the grates are clean. If your grill is large enough, you can prepare the sauce alongside the grilled chicken, and glaze as needed.

Grill the chicken with the lid closed if possible, which will essentially cook the chicken faster due to the warm environment. You’ll want to check on the chicken every 5-6 minutes and flip it when needed. Make sure to start applying the glaze after each side of the chicken has been initially grilled and flipped.

Finished Temperature for Butterflied Chicken Drumsticks

Cooking the butterflied chicken drumsticks to a temperature of at least 170-175°F ensures they are crispy, tender, and will pull off the bone easily.

Spiked Arnold palmer chicken on the grill

Preparing the bourbon glaze

Making the glaze is as simple as combining everything into a small saucepan and cooking on medium heat until everything combines and thickens slightly. This will not be as thick as a traditional BBQ sauce, it’s meant to be a thin glaze.

Bourbon Glaze

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup sweet tea (brewed from before)
  • 1/4 cup bourbon of choice
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

I recommend using a bourbon that you enjoy drinking, that isn’t too high of proof. Higher proof bourbons don’t always taste like you’d expect them to when used in a sauce, I’ve found in my experience that an 85-95 is my personal sweet spot. Maker’s Mark happens to be my go-to for cooking, having a nice sweet and smoky balance.

Spiked Arnold Palmer Chicken served with lemons

Finish off the Spiked Arnold Palmer chicken with lots of fresh lemons, and lemon zest. Having the chicken rest on the lemon adds more moisture and a layer of flavor as you’re waiting to dive right in.

Don’t forget to serve with a tall glass of Spiked Arnold Palmer. All of the ingredients are right there in front of you!

Butterflied Chicken Drumstick Flavor Ideas!?

The drumsticks are just a vehicle for the flavor transportation to your mouth. Don’t limit yourself, try anything! Here are some delicious recipes you can easily transfer to these butterflied chicken drumsticks:

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Spiked Arnold Palmer Chicken, plated for sharing.

Spiked Arnold Palmer Chicken

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Break out the bourbon, it’s time to grill up Spiked Arnold Palmer Chicken. Brined with sweet tea and lemon, the drumsticks are glazed with maple bourbon sauce, hitting the spot during the summer months.

  • Total Time: 4 hours 35 minutes
  • Yield: Serves about 6-8 1x


  • 4-pound chicken drumsticks
  • 2 lemons for garnish, sliced thin

Sweet Tea Brine

  • 2 Lipton family-size iced tea bags (unsweetened)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced 
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced 
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary (optional)


  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika

Bourbon Glaze

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup sweet tea
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce


  1. Prepare the brine first by brewing the tea. Use boiling water to brew the tea according to the instructions. While the tea is still hot, whisk in the salt and brown sugar to dissolve. Add in the rest of the brine ingredients and allot it to cool to room temperature.
  2. Pat the chicken drumsticks dry. Take a drumstick and place it on your cutting board, with the side up facing you that has the most meat showing. Using a sharp knife, cut the meat along one side of the bone, careful not to slice all the way through. Make a second cut, separating the meat from the other side of the bone.  Fold open the meat and lay the drumstick face-down. Repeat for each one.
  3. Place the drumsticks in the brine and fully submerge. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the chicken to marinade for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. The flavor is much better if you do an overnight brine.
  4. Remove the chicken drumsticks from the brine when ready and pat completely dry. Mix the seasoning ingredients together, and lightly season both sides of the drumsticks. For crispier skin, place the drumsticks back in the fridge for at least an hour to allow them to dry out a little further.
  5. Preheat grill to medium-high, 400°F for direct cooking. Use a grill with a lid.
  6. Remove the chicken from the fridge at least 20 minutes before adding to the grill, allowing them to come to room temp.
  7. Place the drumsticks on the grill grates with the skin-side up. Close the lid and allow them to cook for 5 minutes.
  8. Flip the drumsticks, and repeat the process. You’ll continue to flip and close the lid every few minutes until they are almost cooked. This should take about 20-25 minutes depending on your grill.
  9. Mix the baste ingredients into a small saucepan and cook on medium heat until it starts to reduce.
  10. Once the chicken temperature is about 155-160°F, go ahead and baste with the glaze. Leave the lid off, allowing the heat to blast the outside of the chicken and create caramelization and char. Flip and repeat, cooking until the chicken is about 170-175°F.
  11. Place the chicken on slices of lemon, and garnish with fresh lemon zest if desired.


You can prep the glaze ahead of time, which only takes about 10 minutes.

  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Brining: 4 hours
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Chicken & Poultry
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: Dinner
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