From time-honored classics like the Scotch and soda to more innovative sips like the Killer Queen cocktail, adding sparkling water to spirits isn’t anything new. But recently, a three-ingredient cocktail featuring tequila, lime juice and mineral water has made headlines. With roots in Texas, Ranch Water is a simple, refreshing and low-sugar drink for those looking to keep things basic, but not boring. Here, we answer the question “What is Ranch Water?” and share the best Ranch Water recipe to make for yourself.
What Is Ranch Water?
Said to have originated as a refreshment among West Texas ranchers, Ranch Water is a simple tequila highball that has grown in popularity to become a summertime staple across the U.S. Nobody knows the drink’s exact inventor, but Kevin Williamson, chef and owner of Ranch 616 in Austin, claims to have put Ranch Water on his menu way back in 1998 and even previously applied for a trademark, according to The Washington Post.
The ingredients for Ranch Water are as simple as they come: tequila, lime juice and sparkling water. This places the drink in a cocktail category that dates to the 1800s—the Rickey—which adheres to the same structure but generally calls on gin or bourbon instead of tequila. Whatever the base liquor, the combination creates a refreshing, sugar-free drink that’s as tasty in a cocktail bar as it is outdoors under the afternoon sun.
Ranch Water Recipe
Add tequila to highball glass. Squeeze in juice of one half lime, and drop hull into glass. Fill with ice and add sparkling water to top. Garnish with additional lime wedge if desired.
Reserve any remaining soda water. As you sip, continually add soda water to top drink, until bottle is empty. When sparkling water is finished, so is your cocktail.
What Is in Ranch Water?
The ingredients for Ranch Water are tequila, lime juice and mineral water. You can also add some sweetness by adding simple syrup or a sweet liqueur, or introduce additional flavors through fruit, sliced jalapeños or other ingredients.
What’s the Best Tequila for Ranch Water?
Any tequila of choice will work well in the drink, so there’s no problem with simply sticking to what you enjoy best. If you’re looking to explore your options, highland tequilas will often be lighter in profile, creating a more fruity or floral drink. Lowland (or “valley”) tequilas will tend to be more herbal and earthy, making for a bolder Ranch Water.
Espolòn Tequila Blanco is a bartender standard that comes in at an affordable price point and brings fruit-forward notes. Milagro is another option that offers a light profile for a more refreshing hot-weather Ranch Water, while Corralejo is a smooth-drinking tequila that plays well in almost any cocktail and has pronounced grapefruit and lime flavors.
For an earthier tequila, Fortaleza is a valley option that brings herbal and vegetal notes, as does Chinaco with its telltale jalapeno-reminiscent backbone. If you’re looking to split the difference, Tequila Ocho Plata strikes a good middle ground between floral aromas with a touch of earthiness.
Want more tequila options? Here are the best tequilas for any kind of drinker.
Is Topo Chico Required?
For practical purposes, any sparkling water will work, but Topo Chico is often said to be a staple of true Ranch Water. The seltzer brand, which has roots in Mexico and has long been popular in Texas, is a highly carbonated option. Its vigorous bubbles are said to act as tiny magnifying glasses for the tequila’s flavors, but still retain effervescence as you sip. Acquired in 2017 by Coca-Cola, which aggressively expanded the product’s footprint across the U.S., Topo Chico has played a large part in increasing the popularity of Ranch Water outside of Texas.
What Is the Best Ranch Water Cocktail Glassware?
This article was updated January 19, 2023, to include additional information.
Last Updated: September 19, 2023