A tour of America’s beloved regional cocktails
Only a few states, cities or regions across the country can lay claim to an original cocktail all their own. Washington, D.C. has the Rickey; New Orleans has its very own cottage industry of homegrown classics, from the Ramos Gin Fizz to the Sazerac; and, of course, New York has the Manhattan.
But there’s also a canon more esoteric drinks that have grown up over the past several decades to become local obsessions, from Maryland’s Orange Crush to the seemingly misguided dive-bar drink known in the Upper Midwest as the “Beertini.”
West Texas’ Ranch Water
Anyone who’s spent time in West Texas between May and September has experienced the relentless desert sun, offset ever-so-briefly by a bone-dry, tumbleweed-stirring breeze. This is not the kind of heat quenched by mere H2O. Enter Ranch Water.
Though the exact birthplace of the tequila-based refresher is unknown, this unofficial drink of West Texas dive bars and house parties carries some Texas-sized fables. “There’s a rumor that it was concocted by a wild-haired rancher in Fort Davis in the 1960s,” says Phillip Moellering, Manager and Food & Beverage Director of the Gage Hotel in Marathon, Texas. “Allegedly, the spirit of the drink had him following the West Texas stars all the way from Fort Davis to Marathon by foot, where he was found asleep under a piñon tree.”
Baltimore’s Orange Crush Cocktail
Phil Lewis’ right side is bigger than his left. It’s a common physical trait among the staff at Harborside Bar & Grill in West Ocean City, Maryland, the undisputed birthplace of the Orange Crush.
The key to a Crush is actually its namesake action—the swift yanking of an industrial press juicer that flattens fresh orange halves, sending frothy OJ plummeting into a pint glass filled with ice, vodka and triple sec. Harborsiders repeat this same motion thousands upon thousands of times each season, reps that lead to Popeye-like dominant-arm definition.
“We’re all disproportional,” jokes Lewis, who’s tended bar at Harborside for 12 years. A squirt of lemon-lime soda finishes off the Old Line State’s unofficial cocktail, a concoction that’s crept from its laidback beach town beginnings to become a coastal phenomenon.