Skip to main content

How to make Ranch Water the right way

Looking for a refreshing beverage? Search no more, Ranch Water is here

A serving of Ranch Water cocktail
Brent Hofacker / Adobe Stock

If there was ever a beverage built for day drinking, it’s Ranch Water. The simple cocktail, born in Texas, can take the sting out of the hottest days and refresh you to the core without knocking you out with an abundance of alcohol.

We’ve just come out of our winter hibernation, so the days will be getting longer, and soon enough, the warmth will return. When that happens, you’d be wise to have some Ranch Water on hand for you and yours. Lighter than a margarita and far more interesting than plain water, the drink resides in a happy middle ground. Better, it’ll tackle your thirst and keep you functional.

To be honest, I didn’t think much of the drink until a heat wave broke out last year. It was too hot to work, too hot to eat, too hot to do just about anything, except drink.

The zesty, relatively low-ABV beverage cooled my core and powered me past the associated hot weather hangups (the swamp crotch, the fatigue, the mild hallucinations). It’s a drink you can enjoy all day without getting tanked. Better, it’s easy to make—an underrated feature given that the last thing you want to do on a scorching day is overexert yourself.

David Alan, the director of trade education and mixology at Patron, knows a lot about this drink. He’s from Austin and has watched it blossom from ranch cocktail to a trending order at bars all over. He says it began as a mainstay at Ranch 616 in Austin, Texas, before being picked up and exported by the Marfa crowd.

“It has become so popular that its origins have been obscured, but if there is another person who can credibly claim to have invented the drink, I have not found that source yet,” he said. With the original recipe, he’s inclined to go with what Ranch 616 does.

“In many places, the drink has been simplified — bartenders will open a Topo, pour out some of the bubbly water, and add tequila and lime juice directly to the bottle,” Alan explained. “I think this is a refreshing drink, but I prefer the ‘classic’ Ranch Water, served tall and with the orange liqueur to balance out the drink.”

Alan is quick to call out those who think the drink is tequila and soda. The lime, he says, is more than a garnish. It’s a major player. “There is quite a bit more of it than you would get from just squeezing the lime garnish on a tequila soda,” he said. Then there’s the mineral water. “Second, it has to be sparkling mineral water from Mexico,” he said. “By definition, the Ranch Water requires Topo Chico, or you will also see it made with Mineragua or Tehuacan. But soda water off the gun does not a Ranch Water make!”

As per usual these days, there are canned options for this drink. Ranch Rider out of Austin makes a formidable one. But you’re a capable person, even with the merciless sun looking you dead in the eye. Let’s begin with tequila: This is not a drink for brown spirits. Put the aged tequila down and go with blanco. It’s light and full of finesse, exactly what you’re after with this particular cocktail. We’re going for uplifting here, not hot and heavy.

As much as we love three-ingredient cocktails such as this, you can dress it up if you feel inclined. Those with a sweet tooth are encouraged to throw in a float of triple sec or simple syrup. Mezcal fans can add an ounce to the Ranch Water recipe below for a smoky kick. And fresh peppers or citrus wedges are always welcome as garnishes and added flavors.

Also, let’s not overlook the ice. With minimal drinks like this, ice can make or break things. Make sure your ice is fresh, and it hasn’t been sitting in your freezer for more than a few days. If your ice trays share freezer space with food, be sure the latter is sealed up snugly to prevent odors and off-flavors from infiltrating the ice. The last thing you want is Ranch Water that tastes vaguely of corn dogs or sweet potato fries.

Here are a couple of great Ranch Water recipes to try out, so here’s to spring.

Ranch Water recipes

Spicy Ranch Water
Ghost Tequila

Standard Ranch Water

This is easily one of the best summer cocktails: simple, effective, and delicious. Try playing around with different tequilas and always use fresh lime juice.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 ounces tequila (we suggest Patron Silver or Hiatus Blanco)
  • 3/4 ounce lime juice
  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) Topo Chico

Method

  1. Combine tequila and lime juice in a Collins glass filled with ice.
  2. Top with soda water and stir gently to combine.

Original Ranch Water

As Alan said, hold on to the extra mineral water with this recipe and serve what’s left in the bottle with the cocktail. “As you drink down the drink, you keep topping it off with the Topo Chico, so the drink evolves as you drink it,” he told us.

Ingredients

  • 2 parts tequila
  • 1 part Citrónage orange liqueur
  • 1 part lime juice
  • Topo Chico

Method

  1. Combine ingredients in a glass and top with Topo Chico.
  2. Continue to top when necessary.

What is Topo Chico?

Topo Chico
Brooke Cagle

As you might have noticed, the key ingredient to Ranch Water is mineral water, generally Topo Chico. But just exactly what is Topo Chico? And what makes it so special?

Topo Chico is a brand of mineral water sourced at the Cerro del Topo Chico spring and bottled in Monterrey, Mexico since 1895. It’s incredibly popular in Texas and other southern states, and while it’s available across the country, it can be harder to find. Your best bet is to look for the distinctive glass bottle with the yellow label in gourmet food shops or markets in areas with a large Latin American population.

What makes Topo Chico the perfect ingredient for Ranch Water is its flavor. It contains the minerals calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, and sulfates that give Topo Chico a unique flavor that has been described as citrusy and slightly salty — the perfect addition to tequila for a refreshing summer drink.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
This is how Bobby Flay makes store-bought barbecue sauce taste amazing
Make your sauce taste homemade with this easy trick
Person grilling

Love him or hate him, Bobby Flay is admittedly one of the more talented and famous chefs of our time. Between his countless television shows and cookbooks, the popular chef has amassed quite a dedicated fan following, looking to him for culinary inspiration in just about any dish. This time of year, the grilling expert is well-loved and sought after for his delicious barbecue tips, tricks, and recipes, and we've stumbled across one that we can't wait to try this summer.

In a YouTube video posted by The Food Network, Flay admits that while making homemade barbecue sauce is certainly a great option, not everyone has the time or desire to do so. He then goes on to explain that by simply adding a few key ingredients to a high-quality store-bought sauce, everyone's favorite summertime condiment can be elevated to whole new levels of finger-licking deliciousness.
The secret ingredients

Read more
12 best breakfast recipes to start your day right
Even if you're not a purported home chef, you can whip up these delicious morning meals
Waffle breakfast sandwich with chorizo recipe

Breakfast doesn't have to be boring, even on busy mornings. In a bowl, on a plate, or in between two slices of toast, there are endless breakfast ideas and ways to enjoy the most important meal of the day. From upgraded oatmeal to weekday waffles and breakfast sandwiches with a twist, we've gathered some of the best breakfast recipes ever in one delicious list.
Waffle and chorizo breakfast sandwich

(from PureWow)

Read more
How to reheat steak the right way (and more tips and tricks)
This two-step process will make your leftover meat just as tasty as the first time
Reheating steak in an oven

Say you’ve perfectly cooked a 12-ounce steak and gotten that beautiful golden sear outside. You look forward to a night of feasting only to realize there is too much steak left on the platter after the meal. You then pack the leftover steak in a container, store it in the fridge, and hope it’s still as perfect as it was.

Steak -- whether it’s filet mignon, hanger, rib-eye, or sirloin -- is an expensive food item and it seems wasteful to just throw any leftovers. What do you do then? Reheat it the next day in the hopes it doesn't dry out and still tastes as good as the night before.

Read more