Welcome to Fizz Biz, a summertime column where we’ll be sipping and appraising hard seltzers all season long. Know of any must-try products out there? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is “ranch water”? I’m here to set the record straight, and trust me, I was as disappointed as you surely are to find out that it is not, in fact, hard seltzer with ranch dressing mixed into it. Hard ranch dressing seltzer does sound promising, at least as a beverage that can leave you wailing in despair after the first sip.
Now that I’ve made you thoroughly uncomfortable, ranch water is actually sort of a subset of hard seltzer as we know it. The drink is typically made with tequila (or a spirit, but usually tequila), bubbly water, lime juice, and sometimes a bit of simple syrup. However, ranch waters from Ranch Rider Spirits Co., the subjects of today’s review, don’t contain added sugar, which is why it’s fair to consider them, for all intents and purposes, a hard seltzer.
From a helicopter perspective, Ranch Rider’s lineup of ranch waters reminds me a bit of Spindrift, my favorite variety of sparkling water. Spindrift is great because there’s actual fruit juice added to it, but without any extra sweeteners. That way you get a really crisp seltzer with the satisfaction of real fruit, without breaking the bank on sugar.
Right now there are four flavors in Ranch Rider’s lineup: Ranch Water (tequila reposado, sparkling water, lime juice), Tequila Paloma (tequila reposado, sparkling water, and grapefruit, lime, and orange juice), The Chilton (vodka, sparkling water, lemon juice, and sea salt), and The Buck (vodka, sparkling water, lime juice, and ginger). All of them are at 6% ABV (well, The Buck sports a 5.99% ABV if we’re nitpicking). Ranch Rider was kind enough to send me a sample of every flavor they have, and out of all of them, there was a clear leader.
The winner: The Buck. This drink is clearly inspired by a Moscow Mule, the classic cocktail containing vodka, ginger beer, and lime. This thing is honestly one of the best hard seltzers I’ve had yet, and it’s because of the ginger, no question.
Wow, does ginger make a difference. It’s such a punchy, spicy flavor, but in this application, it’s not overwhelming. It’s present in every sip, and the flavor doesn’t diminish as time goes on. The lime acts as a nice complement, taking the edge off the brute force of ginger, and the 6% ABV also adds a more cocktail-like characteristic to the mix.
I’ve noticed that the 4% ABV seltzers out there are crushable, the 5% are good for a sure-but-steady drinking session, and those that are 6% and up slow you down a bit, making them better for sipping. This is something to keep in mind as you make your what-shall-I-drink-at-this-social-function decisions.
The other guys: The rest of the flavors just didn’t interest me nearly as much, but I think that’s because I’m not a huge tequila drinker. Please forgive me, tequila fans.
The namesake Ranch Water variety is a good all-purpose drink, since it’s about as straightforward as you can get. It’s lightly smoky and sour from the tequila, and not aggressively bubbly.
The Tequila Paloma (sort of a redundant name, since a Paloma contains tequila by default) is definitely more on the sipping end of the spectrum. I’m curious as to why the Paloma flavor combines three different citrus fruits in one can, since mixing grapefruit, lime, and orange juice makes it so that you can’t identify any one fruit within the drink. Still, it’s a complex flavor with the smoke and citrus, and because of that, it’s not a crushable party drink. It’s something to drink while enjoying a long conversation.
Finally, The Chilton. This was, unfortunately, a strange one. I’m not sure if it was stored improperly or something (I’m guessing not, since the other ones in the shipment were fine), but there was a distinctly meaty smell when I popped open the can for the first time. The drink definitely didn’t taste like meat, but had a sulfuric note to it, which I think is the source of the meaty smell. While the scent was definitely entertaining and a bit strange, I’d say steer clear of this one. I still drank the whole thing, though.
Ranch Rider isn’t available nationwide just yet, but there’s a locator to see if there’s any in stores near you. A Ranch Rider rep let me know that an online store is in the works, so just keep an eye on the website if it can’t be found locally.
Overall, this is definitely a buy if you’re not in the mood for the more artificially flavored types of seltzer. Ranch Rider ranch water drinks are also good if you’re not looking for a strong cocktail, but you want the same satisfaction as having enjoyed one. Go for The Buck, because ginger is an underrated beverage ingredient, and it’s awesome.