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Easiest Tailgate Cocktail Ever – Kentucky Ranch Water

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As a Kentucky native, fall is made for college football and tailgate cocktails so I give you the Kentucky Ranch Water. Because we don’t have a professional football team, Kentuckians get to choose if their football love is the University of Louisville (Go Cards!) or the University of Kentucky (Go Big Blue). Me, I’d rather just sip bourbon cocktails. Call me agnostic.

This simple and fast tailgate cocktail is one that I suggest to everyone – it’s fast, has just three ingredients, and is easily portable in a cooler to your game or your fall firepit. For me the Kentucky Ranch Water is an easy example of bourbon mixed drinks – something easy to do without special tools or fancy ingredients. But something that’s still delicious!

What’s Ranch Water?

Ranch water has made the rounds on the internet and social media for the last few years. It’s a simple cocktail of Topo Chico mineral water and tequila, with a bit of lime added in. It’s light, refreshing and easy to make, especially with a healthy splash of vibrant tequila.

Is Ranch Water Alcoholic?

Well, since it has a spirit in it, yes. While you can make a non-alcoholic ranch water, you’d need to select an alcohol-free spirit. If your team plays early, you might make breakfast tailgate drinks. In those cases, something with an alcohol-free spirit or an early morning flavor like maple syrup or coffee might be a fun addition.

Making Kentucky Ranch Water

When I add “Kentucky” to a cocktail I’m adding bourbon. In this case, I’m substituting bourbon for the tequila and also using a Kentucky product as the base of the drink in the bottle. Ale-8 One is a delicious riff on ginger ale with a flavor between that of commercially available ginger ale and ginger beer with a nice kick of caffeine added.

A Few Tips to Make This Great Kentucky Tailgate Cocktail

This “cocktail” is exceedingly simple, but there are a few tips to make it shine:

  • Keep the Ale-8 One very, very cold. Like the bottom of the freezer cold.
  • Choose a great bourbon or rye. I’ve got a little more about that below.
  • Use fresh lime wedges to squeeze into the bottle, and if you pop the wedge into the drink itself, the peel adds some bitterness to the rim and neck of the cocktail. This balances the sweetness of the ginger ale and makes it a bit less sweet and more complex.
  • If it’s still too sweet for you, add a few drops to one dash of flavor-boosting bitters. My favorites to add are orange bitters, cardamom bitters, black walnut bitters, or even more ginger bitters to bump up the ginger kick.

Best Bourbon to Use for Kentucky Ranch Water

Of course, I can’t create an article like this and NOT include the best kinds of bourbons to use! Because I’m calling this Kentucky Ranch Water I’m adding Kentucky Bourbon. However, if you have a favorite Kentucky Rye, or a favorite bourbon from across the US that you think makes a great highball, experiment and find the one you like best.

If you’re Tailgating to another state, buy a local brand of bourbon and try it in the Kentucky Ranch Water to experiment.

I prefer bottled-in-bond and cask-strength bourbons in this drink for two reasons. One, the higher proof keeps the bourbon discernable event at just 1- 1 1/2 ounces. Two, you’re using just a small amount, so you’re not overwhelming the palate with a lot of burn or heat.

My favorites for this are Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, New Riff Single Barrel, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon, Makers 46 (if I want a lighter one) or Old Grand Dad Bottled in Bond.

Suggested Football Cocktail Names

The best names, of course, have to do with the team you’re rooting for. Personally, I prefer a pun, or a play on words that superfans would get. Maybe call a drink the Calipari’s Folly if you’re a University of Louisville fan and you’re at the U of L/U of K game, Kirby’s Punch, if you love Georgia, or Jimbo’s Win if you love the Aggies.

In Kentucky, tailgating often includes kids, so I try to avoid names that are too racy – trying to explain a naughty cocktail name to a young person can leave anyone flustered, even without a drink in hand. BUT, let the theme of your tailgate drive your cocktail name.

Other Cocktails to Try

Recommended Bar Tools

You don’t need every slick, beautiful bar tool out there, but there are several I’ll recommend. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, that does not affect the cost of the items below.) My favorite pieces usually come from the Cocktail Kingdom section of Amazon:

You may already have these bar essentials, but just in case:

Bottle of Ale-8 One with a lime in it and bourbon bottles - Kentucky Ranch Water

Kentucky Ranch Water

Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktailHeather Wibbels
Keep your outdoor event cocktails simple and delicious with this easy, make-in-a-bottle cocktail with Ale-8, a Kentucky-made ginger ale, bourbon and a bit of lime.
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1 minute
Total Time 1 minute
Course Drinks
Cuisine Bourbon Cocktail
Servings 1


  • 1 bottle Ale-8 or ginger ale
  • 1 wedge fresh lime
  • 1-1.5 oz 100 proof or barrel proof bourbon
  • Garnish: lime wedge


  • Open the Ale-8.
  • Take a healthy swig.
  • Add bourbon.
  • Squeeze in lime juice from one wedge and swirl the bottle around bit to mix.
  • Garnish with one additional lime wedge if desired.
Keyword ale-8, bourbon, chili lime, ginger ale, highball
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
By on September 10th, 2022
Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktail

About Heather Wibbels

Heather Wibbels is a whiskey and cocktail author (Executive Bourbon Steward, no less) with a passion for cocktails. She loves researching and designing cocktails, drinking cocktails, and teaching cocktails. Mostly whiskey cocktails, given her Kentucky location.

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