How to Substitute Agave Nectar for Simple Syrup in Cocktails

We’ve partnered with Agave In The Raw to share recipes, tips, and stories that highlight delicious, and even unexpected, ways to use naturally sweet agave nectar.

Given a choice, I will always go for a cocktail. Nothing against beer or wine, of course; I’m more than happy to pop open a bottle. I just tend to prefer the complexity and creativity of a mixed drink.

But don’t let that fool you into thinking I’m a home bartender—when I see “simple syrup” listed in the ingredients, my mind registers “skip.” Yes, I’m aware simple syrup is, er, simple to make; it stores well, too. You can even infuse it with every flavor under the sun. Still, I can never motivate myself to boil up a bunch of sugar and water to make a batch. (Pour one out for all those missed drinks.)

For the easiest-ever cocktail sweetener, try swapping in Agave In The Raw.
For the easiest-ever cocktail sweetener, try swapping in Agave In The Raw.
Photo by Julia Gartland

That’s why I was so impressed with long-time community member Giulia Melucci’s smart substitution: agave nectar.

“I believe that agave nectar is a godsend to cocktail-making because it’s less bother than simple syrup and it gives you the sense that you are doing something healthy, what with its low glycemic index,” she said when sharing the recipe for her Gin Rickey cocktail back in 2009.

Made from the juice of the agave plant, this rich nectar can be used in almost any drink that calls for a sweet boost. The natural sweetener has a more velvety texture than simple syrup, and still mixes easily into chilled drinks (unlike honey, which usually requires being thinned down with hot water first). Because they’re made from the same plant, agave nectar pairs well with tequila, but it also works nicely with most other distilled spirits, like the gin in Melucci’s libation.

Now, I'm ready to be a cocktail queen.
Now, I’m ready to be a cocktail queen.
Photo by Julia Gartland

“I love the taste of lime juice and I thought substituting basil for mint was pretty neat,” she recently told me. “I get high on my culinary creativity and a little booze.”

Making the cocktail is simple: Combine gin, fresh squeezed lime juice, seltzer, and agave nectar in a shaker; give it a good shake before pouring into a glass filled with ice; then garnish with sprigs of mint or basil and wedges of lime. The fact that it comes together without stirring up a sugary syrup? Well, that’s pretty sweet to me.

Serves 2

  • 3

    ounces gin

  • 4

    ounces fresh squeezed lime juice

  • 4

    ounces seltzer

  • 1

    tablespoon Agave In The Raw

  • 2

    sprigs mint or basil

  • 2

    pieces lime

Go to Recipe

Melucci’s Gin Rickey was specifically developed for the sweetness of agave nectar, but you can use the natural sweetener in all sorts of other sips. In other cocktails that call for simple syrup or a different type of sweetener, simply cut the amount of sweeter by 1/2 to 1/4 of that suggested in the recipe. Here, we’ve picked eight of our favorites that would work well with a swap to agave nectar.

Pressed from the core of Mexico’s blue agave plant, our partner Agave In The Raw is a delicious, organic sweetening option. With a rich, velvety texture, it’s great for all kinds of things, from salads to cocktails and beyond.

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