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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 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.

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.

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.

Other Cocktails to Try

Did you try it? I love getting unsolicited DRINK pics from you when you try out a cocktail. Send them along to me on social media. Join me on my social channels at @cocktail_contessa on Instagram and Cocktail Contessa on Facebook and use the hashtags #cocktailcontessa and #bourbonismycomfortfood.

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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:

You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:

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 min
Total Time 1 min
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 enthusiast (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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