The pandemic of 2020 that lingered on deep into 2021 was rough for all of us. As the months have gone by and those uncertain times fall further into history, many of us have succumbed to the need to find our own little silver linings from those days. In an effort to restore our own faith in the beauties of life, we each clung to a few personal positives. For many it was getting into shape, for others, it was binging as much streaming media as possible and for some, it was relishing the time spent at home with family. For me, although I did do a fair share of all the aforementioned, the discovery of a new favorite go-to drink continues as a highlight of those not-so-bright times.
I had my first ever Ranch Water early in the summer of 2021 down in Texas where I was "pandemic-ing". A friend I hadn't seen since the beginning of 2020 was having a little get-together. I came through with a twelve-pack of Shiner and a bottle of tequila, blanco of course. When my host asked what I wanted to drink I replied "What you got?". He replied "A ton of tequila". Tequila it was.
We did a few shots then he directed me to go grab a few Topo Chicos from a fridge in the garage. I had never even heard of Topo Chico up to this point. Little did I know an entirely new world of refreshment was about to be opened to me. Upon my return to the kitchen, my host began to make Ranch Waters. A drink I had never heard of, never seen, never even knew existed.
What is Ranch Water?
The origins of Ranch Water are not completely certain. It could have been created in 1960, it may have roots far more recent than that. Two things for sure are that it originated in West Texas and over the past handful of years has spread like wildfire across the Lonestar State as well as the entire country. The simple tequila drink is often found in liquor stores as a hard seltzer drink, yet its true essence of refreshment could never be captured in a can, produced months ago.
The ingredients are as simple as it gets: tequila blanco, lime juice, and Topo Chico mineral water. The Topo Chico is what makes the drink. I've never been a seltzer, soda or sparkling water person. I enjoy drinking straight-up water, preferably filtered, and it's predominantly what I drink regularly. I've tried a bunch of Perrier-like drinks over time, and none stuck, not even the popular New England Polar beverages which are adorned by many. For me, there's just something about Topo Chico that does it for me. I was excited to have finally found a water for me! The simplicity of Topo Chico adds to the simplistic flavor of the drink.
Since the summer of 2021, Ranch Water has been my drink. I order it year-round, wherever I am. I've made them for people at parties and even taught a few bartenders how to make them. Unfortunately, not every bar carries Topo Chico. Although the mineral water has grown in popularity nationwide, aided by its own line of hard seltzers, outside of Texas and the sporadic bar nationwide in the know, Topo Chico isn't on many bars' inventory lists. When there's no Topo Chico a simple soda water can stand in its place. In Texas, where I reside these days, the Topo Chico flows strong.
I recently checked out a local bar nearby that due to complicated road construction, I had avoided. A nice ranch-style spot with dining, a bar and an outdoor venue for live music that I'm sure will resume once this Texas heat dome lifts. The place is wall-to-wall dark wood with the walls adorned with images and likenesses of life on ye olde Texas ranches from yesteryear. There are a few buffalo and buck heads scattered about, paintings of life in the old days, saloon doors abound and even a huge stuffed bear to great you upon entry. The bathroom signage is "Cowboys" and "Cowgirls". The place, Prairie House Restaurant, perfectly captures the casual vibe of life on the ranch while sitting in the middle of an emerging part of the Dallas Metroplex.
It's been hot and I was thirsty so I ordered a Ranch Water, confident that this Texas bar would know what I was talking about. My confidence was rewarded with the best-served Ranch Water I've experienced since that first one in the summer of 2021. The traditional Texas establishment served their Ranch Water in a way that I had never seen before, nor even conceived of as a possibility, yet it seemed so apropos in tribute to this uniquely Texan cocktail. They served my Ranch Water in the Topo Chico bottle! Adorned with lime resting on the rim, the Topo Chico glistened with cool condensation and sparkled as the mix of tequila, mineral water, and lime juices coalesced forming a sparkling liquid cluster of enjoyment.
The taste perfectly matched the presentation. With a squeeze of the lime to fit in into the bottle I began to drink and it hit me, I had the perfect Ranch Water in my hand. The combination of presentation and taste had taken over my senses, thrusting me into a peaceful moment of enjoyment and refreshment. I usually have my Ranch Waters with either Casamigos or Teremana tequila, but I had faith in the vibe of Prairie House and rolled with the house tequila, a lower-tiered yet suitable agave varietal.
I'm pretty sure any Blanco tequila would have sufficed. The drink was so good. So pure Ranch Water as it must have been originally intended. As time passed, the volume in the bottle lessened and the once cool beverage had warmed and the ingredients became one and at the bottom. I was left with a few sips of pure Ranch Water gold. A few gulps of perfectly blended tequila, lime juices, and Topo Chico, as if the tequila itself was made to taste that way. I was in Ranch Water bliss.
It had taken me all summer, well, two years technically, but I finally had the perfect Ranch Water. Summer still has some punch left in it, especially if you're anywhere near Texas, so be sure to treat yourself to the most legit Ranch Water of all and ask for it inside the Topo Chico bottle.