What Is Ranch Water? Here's Everything You Need to Know About the Healthier Margarita Alternative

You probably have all the ingredients on hand already!

Ranch water cocktails
Photo: Debby Lewis-Harrison/Getty Images

It's hard to improve upon a margarita, but many marg fans are switching things up and embracing a slightly different drink dubbed Ranch Water. The libation has reportedly been around since the 1960s but has gained nationwide popularity in recent years, and for good reason: It's widely considered a healthier alternative to a classic margarita that doesn't skimp on taste and still manages to provide a satisfying buzz. Furthermore, Ranch Water is made with Topo Chico, the Mexican sparkling mineral water brand that's seen La Croix-levels of success over the past few years.

So what exactly is Ranch Water? The cocktail is rumored to be the brainchild of a rancher in West Texas, who invented it about six decades ago. In its present form, this pleasantly uncomplicated drink is made with just three ingredients—tequila, plenty of fresh lime juice, and of course, Topo Chico. While some may say any carbonated water will do, Ranch Water aficionados claim that Topo Chico, which is more carbonated than your average seltzer, is key to making Ranch Water so deliciously refreshing. The extra carbonation gives the drink a superior mouthfeel without being overpowering, and along with the tequila, helps highlight the bright citrus flavors from the fresh lime juice.

Unlike a margarita, Ranch Water doesn't have any orange liqueur (like Cointreau) or agave. Fans say this is part of what makes the drink so refreshing and less sweet and sugary.

Ranch Water Recipe

  1. Place ice in a glass and pour in 3 ounces of blanco tequila.
  2. Mix in the juice of one lime (about 1.5 ounces.)
  3. Top with as much Topo Chico as you'd like, and stir.
  4. Garnish with a lime wedge.

We found that a ratio of two parts tequila to one part fresh lime juice works best, but since Ranch Water only requires three ingredients, feel free to adjust the proportions based on your own preferences. Want a stronger drink? Add a bit more tequila or go easy on the Topo Chico. For something a touch more tart, add another squeeze of lime juice.

Ranch Water Variations

Once you've got the Ranch Water basics down, feel free to experiment a bit. For example, Topo Chico makes flavored varieties, such as Twist of Grapefruit and Twist of Tangerine, which would work well in the drink. Tossing some fresh, seasonal fruit in a cocktail is never a bad idea—try raspberries for a touch of sweetness, or jalapeño slices if you prefer something spicy. As with a classic margarita, feel free to garnish the rim of the glass with a tasty flavored salt (like this red chile salt) or swap out tequila for mezcal, which is known for its smoky notes.

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