What you need to know about the ranch water cocktail

Have you ever tried a ranch water cocktail? If you’re not a Texan, this may not yet be your summer beverage of choice, although it’s so popular in the Lone Star State that there are even spiked seltzer versions available. If you’ve never heard of ranch water, though, rest assured that the “ranch” has nothing to do with salad dressing, despite those Hidden Valley commercials showing people drinking their product straight out of the bottle.

The ranch water cocktail’s origins, as well as its ingredients, are a matter of some dispute. The one constant, according to Texas Highways, seems to be that any drink with “ranch water” in its name hails from West Texas. Well, sort of. Austin is one of the claimants to having invented the drink, and they’re more central than west. Since they’re the state capital, though, perhaps they should get a pass.

At any rate, the ranch water cocktail may be the brainchild of a long-ago bartender at the Gage Hotel in Marathon, or possibly Ranch 616 in Austin, or maybe the Thunderbird Hotel in Marfa (a town more famed for its mystery lights than any previous contribution to the art of mixology). One point in Marfa’s favor is that their version does not contain any orange liqueur, while both the Gage and Ranch 616 versions do include this inauthentic ingredient.

How to make your own ranch water drink

So what does a ranch water cocktail contain? Well, booze, of course, that booze being tequila. Silver or blanco (and not a mixto), preferably, otherwise your ranch water may look more like muddy water. It also needs a little lime juice for flavor (and also to prevent scurvy, wouldn’t want to come down with that). To top it off, you’ll be using sparkling water. While GQ insists that the water absolutely MUST be hipster fave Topo Chico, saying it’s “what real actual people drink in Texas”, the Texas Highways recipe calls for Tehuacán Brillante. Obviously real (if slightly less hipster-y) Texans must drink that brand of water, as well. Plus, there are also Texas-sourced sparkling water brands such as Rambler, can’t get more authentically Texan than that.

Anyway, in order to make your cocktail, fill a tall glass with ice. Add an ounce or two of tequila, squeeze in half a lime or lemon (or a whole one, if you prefer), and top with fizzy water. (If you use LaCroix, or even generic seltzer, it’ll be our little secret.) GQ suggests you keep what’s left in the sparkling water bottle (or can) on hand and use it to top up your drink, thus intentionally diluting the alcohol content so you can stay well-hydrated — and moderately sober — in the hot Texas sun.

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