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Why this Texas cocktail is having a moment

It’s no wonder the ranch water cocktail is showing up at more and more Houston bars, picnics and parties. Made simply by pouring tequila, lime juice and sparkling mineral water over ice, you can fix this zesty mixed drink in a flash.

Texas born and bred, versions of the classic ranch water recipe are being served at an increasing number of Houston watering holesSpace Cowboy, McIntyre’s, Eight Row Flint, Better Luck Tomorrow and Hugo’s, just to name a few. Authentic Texas ranch water has also been turning up among the canned cocktails at stores nationwide, catering to drinkers seeking lower-sugar, lower-calorie and gluten-free choices.

If you are new to the ranch water craze or simply want to know which canned versions are the best, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about this popular three-ingredient, Texas-style tequila highball drink. 

How do you make ranch water?

A ranch water recipe consists of tequila (typically blanco tequila, also known as silver tequila), lime juice and carbonated mineral water. Bubbly Topo Chico (sourced from Mexico and owned by the Coca-Cola Co.) has become the go-to water mixer, but you can use any sparkling mineral water. Finally, add a pinch of salt, preferably sea salt.

There’s no need to shake or even stir; just pour the ingredients over ice in any proportion that suits your taste.

A ranch water cocktail is shown at Austin's Ranch 616, the bar that claims to have made this tequila-based drink a mainstream hit.

A ranch water cocktail is shown at Austin’s Ranch 616, the bar that claims to have made this tequila-based drink a mainstream hit.

Ranch 616 via Yelp

Where did the name ranch water come from?

As the origin story goes, this easy-to-make cocktail was commonly enjoyed on West Texas ranches after work had been done in the blazing sun all day. The late Kevin Williamson, who founded downtown Austin’s Ranch 616 in 1999, is often credited with naming the cocktail and helping popularize it. The affable restaurateur, who was usually spotted wearing embroidered western shirts, even reportedly filed to trademark the name Ranch Water.

Ranch water has also long been served at the Gage Hotel’s White Buffalo Bar in Marathon, Texas, where they add Cointreau orange liqueur into the mix. The cocktail has since made its way onto the menus at countless saloons, dive bars, hotel lounges, cantinas and country clubs in Texas and beyond.

Topo Chico's latest hard seltzer, Ranch Water, is a nod to the brand's Texas fanbase.

Topo Chico’s latest hard seltzer, Ranch Water, is a nod to the brand’s Texas fanbase.

Topo Chico

Is canned ranch water any good?

After the explosion of brands like Truly and White Claw turned canned hard seltzers into a multi-billion dollar business, ranch water served in a can has increased in popularity. Several brands have thrown their 10-gallon Stetsons into the ring with canned ranch water creations of their own, including big brands like Topo Chico, Modelo and Dos Equis.

Here are 12 variations from smaller companies, all gluten-free, that you can find at various bars, liquor stores and online shops.

Karbach Ranch Water

Houston-based and Anheuser-Busch-owned Karbach Brewing Company’s hard seltzers have been spreading Texas ranch water far beyond the Lone Star State line. But if you happen to be in town, you’ll find it being poured at Karbach’s restaurant/pub and dog-friendly biergarten. This fermented libation showcases agave and lime. Flavors of Karbach Ranch Water include original lime, prickly pear, spicy mango, grapefruit, watermelon and Meyer lemon.

Per 12-ounce can: 90 calories, 2 grams of carbohydrate, 4.5 percent alcohol by volume.

RancH2O 

Launched in 2020 and made in Dallas, RancH2O’s crafty canned ranch water cocktail could be considered a skinny Texas margarita. This clean-tasting treat boasts 2 ounces of 100% blanco tequila. Midland native Amelia Lettieri correctly bet there’d be a thirst for pre-mixed cans of the unofficial cocktail of West Texas.

Per 12-ounce can: 150 calories, 4 grams of carbohydrate, 7% alcohol by volume.

Ranch Rider Spirits Co. offers a Jalapeno Ranch Water cocktail in a can for a spicy take on this Texas classic.

Ranch Rider Spirits Co. offers a Jalapeno Ranch Water cocktail in a can for a spicy take on this Texas classic.

Ranch Rider Spirits Co.

Ranch Rider Spirits Ranch Water

This lime-forward ranch water from Austin-based Ranch Rider Spirits Co. is made with premium reposado tequila from a family-owned distillery in Jalisco, Mexico. The distillers use traditional practices and age the tequila in oak barrels. Besides lime, the second variety adds cold-pressed jalapeño to the mix.

Per 12-ounce can: 119 calories, 1 1/2 grams of carbohydrate, 5.99 percent alcohol by volume.

Cantina Extra Tequila Soda Ranch Water

After having success with spiked seltzer-style, ready-to-drink vodka sodas, Austin-based Canteen Spirits introduced Cantina Extra Tequila Sodas. The line’s Ranch Water features blanco tequila from Jalisco, mixed with sea salt. In May 2021, Anheuser-Busch’s Beyond Beer group struck a distribution deal with the canned cocktail makers, ensuring you’ll find this Texas-crafted ranch water across the map.

Per 12-ounce can: 99 calories, 1 gram of carbohydrate, 5.6 percent alcohol by volume.

Lone River Beverage Co. has released a new seltzer the Ranch Rita available at stores now. 

Lone River Beverage Co. has released a new seltzer the Ranch Rita available at stores now. 

Courtesy photo

Lone River Ranch Water

This brand, founded by West Texas native Katie Beal Brown, can be seen as a case study in the booming popularity of canned ranch water cocktails, as it was bought by the global beverage firm Diageo in March 2021. Lone River Beverage Company produces four low-calorie, low-alcohol, malt-based cocktails. Original ranch water mixes carbonated water, alcohol, key lime juice concentrate, organic agave nectar, natural flavors, citric acid and salt. The other flavors are spicy (with jalapeño), Rio Red grapefruit and prickly pear.

Per 12-ounce can: 80 calories, 3 grams of carbohydrate, 4 percent alcohol by volume.

Painted Donkey Tequila's canned ranch water cocktails come in a spicy variety seen here.

Painted Donkey Tequila’s canned ranch water cocktails come in a spicy variety seen here.

Painted Donkey Tequila via Facebook

Painted Donkey Ranch Water

Using tequila produced at Jalisco’s Destiladora Del Valle de Tequila distillery, California-based Painted Donkey’s ranch water comes in original and spicy varieties. These canned versions are made with 100 percent agave tequila and sparkling water. If you’re trying to enjoy a sip without getting too much of a buzz, Painted Donkey’s options have one of the lowest alcohol contents of any ready-to-drink ranch waters we researched.

Per 12-ounce can: 110 calories, 2 grams of carbohydrate, 4.2 percent alcohol by volume.

Epic Western Ranch Water

On the other end of the alcohol-content spectrum, San Antonio-based Epic Western Ranch Water packs the biggest wallop of any can on our list, despite having one of the lowest calorie counts. This robust, clear and bubbly ranch water, first crafted in summer 2021, delivers two shots of premium 100 percent blue agave tequila, certified Mexican mineral water, sea salt and real lime in each can.

Per 12-ounce can: 83 calories, 1 gram of carbohydrate, 10 percent alcohol by volume.

JuneShine Lemon+Lime Tequila Ranch Water

A light, simple tequila seltzer crafted with award-winning spirits, real organic lime and lemon juice, sparkling water and no added sugar. With two shots of tequila per can, JuneShine’s ranch water will add zing to your own happy hours. What’s even better: this San Diego-based brand donates one percent of its sales to environmental nonprofits.

Per 12-ounce can: 172 calories, 3.2 grams of carbohydrate, 8 percent alcohol by volume.

Texas-based Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co., makers of TX Blended Whiskey and TX Straight Bourbon, has created its first ready-to-drink canned cocktails including TX Whiskey & Cola, TX Ranch Water, and TX Whiskey & Sweet Tea; $12.99 at Texas retailers including Total Wine & More.

Texas-based Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co., makers of TX Blended Whiskey and TX Straight Bourbon, has created its first ready-to-drink canned cocktails including TX Whiskey & Cola, TX Ranch Water, and TX Whiskey & Sweet Tea; $12.99 at Texas retailers including Total Wine & More.

TX Whiskey / TX Whiskey

TX Whiskey Ranch Water

Award-winning TX Whiskey, distilled in Fort Worth, recently launched its own take on ranch water in Texas. Instead of tequila, it’s mixed with TX Blended Whiskey for a bolder taste, with natural flavor notes of tart lime, vanilla bean and pear and a juicy lime finish. If you’re trying to cut carbs (it has none) or are simply more of a whiskey person, give this one a crack.

Per 12-ounce can: 110 calories, 0 grams of carbohydrate, 7 percent alcohol by volume.

ShotGun Ranch Water

The beverage-crafting couple behind ShotGun Spiked Seltzer moved back to Austin, the city in which they first met, to make a fresh lineup of canned cocktails. The brand’s preservative-free take on the heritage agave-lime sparkler is easy to find in cans and on tap at dozens of spots around Houston alone.

Per 12-ounce can: 164 calories, 3 grams of carbohydrate, 6.9 percent alcohol by volume.

4) Cutwater Lime Ranch Water: $3.99 Shop Now Lighter, more effervescent, and much less sweet than the margarita, Cutwater's Lime Ranch Water tastes like our favorite cocktail went to the spa. We love that it's still tequila-forward (made with Cutwater's own blanco), but we don't have to clear our schedule to have one. Specs: 5.9% ABV 124 calories
4) Cutwater Lime Ranch Water:

$3.99

Shop Now

Lighter, more effervescent, and much less sweet than the margarita, Cutwater’s Lime Ranch Water tastes like our favorite cocktail went to the spa. We love that it’s still tequila-forward (made with Cutwater’s own blanco), but we don’t have to clear our schedule to have one.

Specs:

5.9% ABV

124 calories

Courtesy Cutwater

Cutwater Ranch Water

The San Diego-based distillery’s canned cocktails are made with its own award-winning premium spirits. This includes the tequila powering Cutwater Ranch Water, which is available in lime, prickly pear and watermelon varieties.

Per 12-ounce can, depending on variety: 124-130 calories, 3-5.6 grams of carbohydrate, 5.9 percent alcohol by volume.

California-based Texas Ranch Water Co. uses blue agave in its ranch water canned cocktails.

California-based Texas Ranch Water Co. uses blue agave in its ranch water canned cocktails.

Texas Ranch Water Co.

Texas Ranch Water Company Blue Agave Hard Seltzer

Despite its name, this malt-based hard seltzer is made by a company in Northern California. While you might dock it some points for that, the lime and grapefruit flavors of this hard seltzer contain alcohol derived from cane sugar and 100 percent blue agave for refreshing taste. It’s another solid option for anyone looking for a lighter take on ranch water.

Per 12-ounce can: 100 calories, 2 grams of carbohydrate, 5 percent alcohol by volume.

How to elevate your next glass of ranch water

As a twist on the traditionally tart tequila-lime libation, you can elevate this Texas highball by pouring some orange liqueur or grapefruit juice into the mix. Or, spice it up with some jalapeño or a chile-citrus such as Tajin, which goes great around the rim of your favorite glass.



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