Have you tried a ranch water cocktail? If not, let me introduce you! Essentially a tall tequila soda with extra lime, the ranch water is more than the sum of its parts. If you use a great tequila and Topo Chico, it tastes quite special.
The ranch water is like a bubbly, light and totally unsweetened margarita. If even “skinny” margaritas are sometimes too sweet for you, try a ranch water instead. It’s super refreshing and perfect on a hot day. When I’m at a bar without an exciting wine list, the ranch water is my go-to drink order regardless of the season.
Ranch waters hail from Texas, with Ranch 616 in Austin claiming to be “home to the original ranch water.” I honestly can’t recall when I first tried a ranch water—maybe it was during my month in Austin in 2015, or sometime in between. My brother lives in West Texas and I was delighted to discover ranch waters at his wedding reception a few years ago.
Pre-made ranch water cocktails in cans are becoming more popular, but you can’t beat a homemade ranch water made with good tequila, bubbly Topo Chico and fresh lime. They’re so easy to make. Find my recipe below!
Ranch Water Ingredients
The ranch water cocktail is made with three simple ingredients, plus an optional, tiny little pinch of salt. Serve it over tons of ice in a highball glass. Here’s what you’ll need to make one:
1) Tequila Blanco
Tequila blanco is standard in ranch waters, and it’s my personal preference as well. Tequila blanco is also known as tequila plata, or white or silver tequila in English. Since it’s bottled soon after it’s distilled, it offers the purest tequila flavor and is generally colorless. If you have a reposado or añejo (aged) tequila that you enjoy, though, give it a try.
For ranch waters, I recommend Casamigas, Espalon and Milagro. They’re my top picks for all tequila cocktails. Since this cocktail is so simple, the tequila’s flavor really shines through. Always choose a 100 percent agave tequila so you know exactly what you’re buying. Cheaper tequila mixtos contain a mix of alcohols and additives that can contribute to hangovers.
Some online recipes are calling for an outrageous three ounces of tequila per drink, which is even stronger than a martini. The ranch water should be an easy sipper, which is why my recipe calls for a standard drink pour of 1 1/2 ounces.
2) Topo Chico or Sparkling Water
Topo Chico, with its plentiful tiny bubbles, is perfect for ranch waters. Mineragua is another Mexican sparkling water that is just as good. Otherwise, you can use any unflavored sparkling water or club soda.
I feel compelled to mention that Topo Chico got into trouble a couple of years ago when Consumer Reports found that it was high in PFAS, otherwise known as “forever chemicals.” The next year, they reported that the brand cut levels by more than half. By email, they told me their “more recent sampling of the Topo Chico product was below EPA’s method detection limit of 2.0 PPT.” I’d personally prefer it to be at zero.
Mineragua claims to be formulated without PFAS, though I’m not 100 percent sure that means it’s completely free of them. If you want perfectly pure sparkling water, choose Mountain Valley, which claims zero PFAS (here’s their own test results). Their water is a little more minerally in flavor and the bubbles aren’t as plentiful, but I think it would be good in a ranch water.
3) Fresh Lime
Fresh-squeezed lime, and lots of it, is the only way to go! No stale store-bought lime juice, please. The lime cuts the taste of the alcohol and tastes reminiscent of a margarita. My recipe calls for a little more lime juice than others do, because I think the more lime, the better. Try it my way first and then you can always scale back a little for future drinks.
This recipe calls for 1 ounce lime juice, which is approximately the juice from one small-to-medium lime. Limes vary significantly in their juice output, so measure it in a jigger if you want to be exact. Otherwise, just add another splash of club soda if you end up with too much.
Juicing tips: To get the most lime juice from your lime, roll it firmly under your hand against the countertop before slicing. Room temperature citrus yields more than refrigerated, though they keep significantly longer in the refrigerator. I love to use this citrus juicer to get every last drop, and I squeeze the juice directly into this measuring jigger (affiliate links).
4) Teeny Tiny Pinch of Salt
The salt is optional, but really boosts the overall flavor of the cocktail. Try your drink without it and then with it to taste the difference.
Ranch Water Variations
The classic ranch water is hard to beat, but here are a few ways you can change it up.
- Line the rim of the glass with lime juice and then salt or Tajín, a chili powder and lime powder.
- Lightly muddle a few slices of cucumber (refreshing) and/or jalapeño (spicy) in the bottom of the glass before adding ice.
- Add a splash of grapefruit juice or soda before filling the rest of the glass with sparkling water.
Ranch Water Serving Suggestions
This light and refreshing cocktail pairs well with your favorite Tex-Mex and Mexican recipes. For happy hour, serve guacamole or queso and salsa with tortilla chips. For dinner, do tacos or enchiladas!
More Bubbly Cocktails to Make
Like the ranch water, these simple homemade cocktails are sparkling and ice cold.
Please let me know how your ranch water turns out in the comments! I love hearing from you.
Ranch Water Cocktail
- Prep Time: 3 minutes
- Total Time: 3 minutes
- Yield: 1 drink 1x
- Category: Cocktail
- Method: Stirred
- Cuisine: Texan
- Diet: Gluten Free
Make the ultimate ranch water cocktail at home with this recipe! You’ll need good tequila, fresh lime, and Topo Chico or sparkling water.
- 1 ½ ounces silver (blanco) tequila
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
- Teeny tiny pinch of fine salt
- Sparkling water, preferably Topo Chico or Mineragua
- Fill a tall glass to the brim with ice. Pour in the tequila and lime juice. Add a tiny sprinkle of salt to bring out the flavors.
- Fill the rest of the glass with sparkling water. Gently stir once with a spoon to mix. Add a lime wedge and serve at once.
Suggested tequila: I like Casamigas, Espalon and Milagro. Blanco tequila is standard in ranch waters and it’s my personal preference as well.
Measuring tips: 1 ½ ounces is 3 tablespoons and 1 ounce is 2 tablespoons. You’ll need about 1 medium lime per drink.