There aren’t many drinks that beat a classic margarita, but if you’re looking for a healthier take on the refreshing cocktail, a boozy beverage from Texas is beginning to gain popularity across the country.
Ranch Water is a drink made with tequila, lime juice and carbonated water. Over the years, it has become synonymous with Topo Chico, a Mexican spring-sourced carbonated mineral water, so much so that if you search for a recipe, it will most likely include the brand in the ingredients.
The cocktail is healthier than many margarita recipes, as it does not included store-bought margarita mix or agave syrup, which add both sugar and calories. Topo Chico, or any brand of sparkling water you use, is free of calories and sugar, so the amount of calories in the drink will depend on what brand of tequila you choose.
The origins of the Ranch Water drink are not known, but some say it dates back to the 1960s. Phillip Moellering, manager and food and beverage director of the Gage Hotel in Marathon, Texas, told PunchDrink.com that it’s rumored to have been created by a “wild-haired rancher in Fort Davis.”
“Allegedly, the spirit of the drink had him following the West Texas stars all the way from Fort Davis to Marathon by foot, where he was found asleep under a piñon tree,” Moellering said.
However, Kevin Williamson, chef and owner of Ranch 616 in Austin, says he invented the drink and has had it on his menu since 1998. He says his team trained the team at the Gage Hotel’s White Buffalo Bar more than a decade ago and The Washington Post reports that Williamson has even applied for a trademark on the Ranch Water name. The drink is indeed on the menu at the White Buffalo Bar, with its version including Pura Vida Silver Tequila, lime juice, Topo Chico and Cointreau, which is commonly found in margaritas, but not in most Ranch Water recipes.
While the actual Ranch Water drink is pretty straightforward, in order to know how much of each ingredient to use, there are dozens of recipes online. This recipe from The Pioneer Woman calls for the three standard ingredients of lime juice, tequila blanco and Topo Chico, while this one from Tidy Mom adds some heat to the drink with the addition of jalapeño slices and chili lime seasoning on the rim.
This recipe from Vine Pair, on the other hand, calls for creating the cocktail directly in a glass bottle of Topo Chico by first drinking about 2 ounces of the carbonated water, then adding tequila blanco and lime juice and drinking it straight from the bottle. Just make sure you’ve chilled the water first, as ice will likely not fit into the top of the bottle.
If you’re not up for making your own Ranch Water cocktail, the Lone River Beverage Company has made it even easier to try with a hard seltzer inspired by the drink. The brand’s Ranch Water seltzer is sold at stores including Whole Foods and H-E-B and online via Drizzly, Foxtrot, GoPuff and other services. You’ll find it offered in four flavors: original, spicy, Rio Red grapefruit and prickly pear.
Other canned Ranch Water cocktails include Ranch Rider Spirits, RancH2O, Texas Ranch Water, Cutwater Spirits, Hornitos and one produced by Topo Chico itself. Made with real lime juice, the seltzer comes in a 12-pack of 12-ounce slim cans, with each can containing 4.7% alcohol by volume and 100 calories.
Currently, Topo Chico Ranch Water Hard Seltzer is only available in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas, but the brand’s other hard seltzers are in stores nationwide in four flavors: strawberry guava, exotic pineapple, tangy lemon lime and tropical mango.
Still not up for forgoing a margarita in favor of a Ranch Water drink? There are plenty of ways to enjoy a traditional margarita that’s a bit healthier than following a classic, and usually quite sugary, recipe.
Crook & Marker has canned margaritas that come in at just 100 calories and have zero sugar. They also have new bottled margaritas that are 110 calories and also have zero sugar, but a higher ABV than the canned version. Made with organic tequila and real fruit juice, they come in lime and strawberry hibiscus varieties.
You’ll also find canned margaritas by SipMargs, which come in a handful of flavors and have 130 calories per can, and from Golden Rule, whose margarita has only 80 calories and 4 grams of sugar, but a whopping 27% ABV.
There are also a few margarita seltzers if you’re looking for a bubbly take on the drink, like these ones from Truly that have 1 gram of sugar and 110 calories. They come in four flavors: classic lime, strawberry hibiscus, watermelon cucumber and mango chili.
Will you be adding Ranch Water to your list of go-to drinks this summer?