A PINK POLKA-DOTTED ELEPHANT beckons with an invitation to Elephant Ranch, an outdoor beer garden, bar, liquor store, and communal gathering space on the western outskirts of Las Cruces. “It’s like drinking in your best friend’s backyard,” says co-owner Dillon Nunn, “but with better cocktails.”
Nunn and co-owner Deret Roberts have expertly curated the five-year-old spot to create a rustic-cool vibe. They’ve enhanced the adobe building of the former Guacamole’s Bar & Grille, pergola-covered patio, beehive fireplaces, gurgling fountains, and expansive courtyard with twinkling string lights, restored neon signs of saguaro cacti and the Stagecoach Motel, and the Tacos Romero food truck.
In 2018, Roberts and Nunn bought the vacant property several years after the popular restaurant closed. Their combined talents have helped to make Elephant Ranch a success. Roberts, who owns Art Obscura art gallery and Good Sign Co., has created and restored the vintage and neon signs that give the place its character. Nunn, whose parents own Sparky’s Burgers, BBQ & Espresso, in Hatch, grew up in the hospitality business. “We’re the perfect team,” Roberts says. “Where one person leaves off, the other one picks up.”
The name was the hardest thing to settle on. Nunn and Roberts referred to it as “the Ranch” (and still do), but also realized they didn’t want it to be too “honky-tonk.” Elephants have always been special to Nunn, who found the addition to be the perfect quirky fit. “It begs you here,” he says. “You don’t know what you’re going to experience.”
Yet the initial menu was simple: local and imported beer and wine. It has since evolved to include their famous michelada, made with their secret blend, and a focus on cocktails. “We’re crafting our own cocktails in the way we think they should be made,” Roberts says. “A little bit of care goes a long way.” That means you won’t find any well drinks at Elephant Ranch. The bar is highly selective in the spirits it serves, such as Reyka vodka from Iceland, Old Forester bourbon, and Madre Mezcal (try the Goth Paloma).
While on the hunt for a new tequila, for example, Nunn and Roberts stumbled upon La Brujita mezcal in Durango, Mexico. The two fell for the 100 percent Agave durangensis mezcal and began importing and bottling it in Las Cruces. (Elephant Ranch is currently the only place you can find it in New Mexico, but the duo hope to eventually distribute it throughout the state.)
“Our creativity comes in where we want to experiment with new and quality spirits,” Nunn says. “If you want the worst whiskey in the world, we just don’t have it.” Elephant Ranch hosts exclusive Craft and Culture events, which showcase individual liquors with specially crafted cocktails and food pairings.
“This place is just one big conversation that we’re having with each other—through drink, experience, and environment,” Roberts says. “It’s all about connection, conversation, community.”