If you haven’t heard of Topo Chico by now, you probably don’t have any friends from Texas. From taquerias to supermarkets to bars, it's hard not to find Topo Chico in the Lonestar State. And now, the spritzy water with a cultish following is taking on brands like San Pellegrino, Perrier and Seagram’s in a bid to become the country’s favorite new fizz.
Founded in 1895, Topo Chico is one of the oldest bottled soda water companies in Mexico. The mineral rich water is sourced from springs that emanate from Cerro Del Topo Chico, an inactive volcano north of the city of Monterrey in Nuevo León, Mexico. According to legend, when 15th century Aztec emperor Moctezuma Ilhuicamina’s daughter became afflicted with an incurable disease, the emperor consulted with the kingdom’s oldest and wisest priests for a cure. The priests led the emperor to Northern Mexico, far from the Aztec kingdom, where travelers had discovered mystical springs deep within the mountains. After bathing in and drinking the fabled waters, the princess was miraculously cured. Henceforth, the springs became a mecca for sick travelers, known throughout the Aztec Empire. Eventually, the spring water was bottled and sold as Topo Chico mineral water.
Unavailable in the United States until the 1990s—and only recently made available outside of Texas—Topo Chico’s sales have soared since it entered the market north of the border. In Texas, Topo Chico has dominated the soda water market, with sales increasing by 83% over the course of a four year span according to the New York Times. It makes up 74% of all imported sparkling water sales at convenience stores.
With tight, compact bubbles reminiscent of fine Champagne, a hint of minerality and notes of saline and citrus, it’s easy to understand the sparkling water’s appeal. The secret behind the water’s unique flavor profile and effervescence lies within Topo Chico’s mineral composition, a result of the volcanic activity that birthed the water’s source. It is rich with naturally occurring sodium, magnesium, potassium and manganese. There’s no better cure for the dizzying swelter of summer, nor is there a better ingredient to use in thirst-quenching cocktails, as any Texan bartender will tell you.
“I was introduced to [Topo Chico] many years ago when it was offered to me at a dive bar outside of Fort Worth,” says Mark Yawn, the bar manager at Austin cocktail mecca, Ranch 616. “At the time, I was a Pellegrino drinker, but that changed after that day. I default to Topo Chico now. It has an aggressive effervescent quality that other mineral waters simply do not have. The fizz it gives a cocktail provides an incredibly refreshing feeling.”
Since its arrival, Topo Chico has become the “it” sparkling water within the Texas bar scene. Mixologists are using the spritely mineral water in everything from sparkling Highballs and Paloma variations, to tiki drinks. At Sellers Undeground in Austin, head bartender John Mullowney uses Topo Chico in multiple cocktails, including their Cajun Cucumber, a drink with cucumber vodka, fresh lime juice, jalapeño simple syrup and a topper of Topo Chico. Mullowney was first introduced to the bubbly water by his boss, who drank more than five bottles of Topo Chico a day. “Topo is special,” Mullowney says. “It adds so much to cocktails because it is so refreshing—it’s perfect for summer evenings. Almost every bar and restaurant in town carries it, and most feature it on their [cocktail] menus as well.”
One of the most famous drinks to come out of Texas is the Ranch Water, a cocktail created by Kevin Williamson and Antonio Vidal, the founders of Ranch 616, which combines fresh lime juice with reposado tequila, Patrón Citrónge (a tequila-based orange liqueur) and Topo Chico. “The idea of diluting a strong drink with the Mexican mineral water was developed over several drinks one afternoon,” says Yawn. That was 15 years ago. Since then, Ranch 616 has trademarked the name, but that hasn’t stopped bars across the state from imitating the celebrated drink. Ranch Water has become so ubiquitous that it’s been dubbed the unofficial drink of West Texas. Even Martha Stewart has her own recipe for the cocktail.
But Topo Chico doesn’t have to be limited to tequila—or Texas. Whether you use it to top your Campari and vermouth in an Americano, mixed with gin in a Tom Collins or stirred into a sweet and minty Mojito, the Mexican mineral water adds the perfect spritzy bite to any cocktail. Best of all, now that the mineral water is available via Amazon, the possibilities for boozing up Topo Chico are as diverse as the 50 states that can now have it shipped to their front door.