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Spiked Arnold Palmer Chicken

by Brad Prose

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.


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)

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.

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Brining and Seasoning the Chicken

The brine might be pretty flavorful, but a little spice rub takes it up a notch. Adding a bit of brown sugar with salt, pepper, and garlic (SPG) is a basic seasoning that will season the outside just enough and add some caramelization. Paprika adds a little color and flavor, without taking away from the essence of Spiked Arnold Palmer chicken. Don’t be afraid of the amount of brown sugar, this recipe is accounting for 4 pounds of chicken.

Simple Seasoning

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

Take the chicken out of the brine and pat them very dry. 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.

Seasoning the butterflied chicken drumsticks after the brine

Grilling and Glazing 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 of the grilled chicken, and glaze as needed.

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

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.

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 on the grill

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.

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!

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Spiked Arnold Palmer Chicken, plated for sharing.

Spiked Arnold Palmer Chicken

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

Ingredients

Scale
  • 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)

Seasoning

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

Bourbon Glaze

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

Instructions

  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.

Notes

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

Keywords: arnold palmer, bourbon, chicken, butterflied chicken drumsticks, lemon, spiked

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