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Using Agave Nectar in Cocktails

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Agave Nectar

Agave nectar

sf_foodphoto / E+ / Getty Images
Agave harvest at Sauza Tequila

Agave harvest at Sauza Tequila in Jalisco, Mexico

Photo Courtesy: © Shannon Graham
Reposado Old-Fashioned Cocktail

Reposado Old-fashioned

Elizabeth Watt / Photodisc / Getty Images

What is Agave Nectar?:

Agave nectar, or agave syrup, is a sweetener used in food and drinks. It is often used as a substitute for sugar, simple syrup, honey and molasses and as an alternative sweetener for vegans (instead of honey) and those who need to watch their sugar intake because it has a lower glycemic index than sugar. It is becoming more popular to use in cocktails as a "healthy" sweetener.

The flavor of agave nectar is unique. It is sweeter than sugar, similar to - with a more neutral flavor than - honey, and it lacks the bitter aftertaste of artificial sweeteners.

Agave nectar can be found in many grocery and heath food stores.

How is Agave Nectar Made?:

This nectar is made from the juice of the agave plant. As in the production of tequila, agave nectar begins with 7-10 year old agave plants in Mexico from which the pinas are harvested. The juice, or sap, is extracted, filtered, then heated slowly at low temperatures until the carbohydrates are broken down into sugar.

Also like tequila, the best agave nectars are the products of blue agave and labels will clearly state if that nectar is "100% Blue Agave." There are also "certificate of origin" laws for agave nectar, though that is where the similarities with tequila end. Agave nectar is alcohol free.

Grades of Agave Nectar:

Similar to other syrups, agave nectar is available in a range of color and flavor intensity. The lighter grades look similar to simple syrup and are best for lightly flavored cocktails like the Rosangel Margarita and Vodka Sour because the flavor is almost transparent. The dark agave nectars have not been filtered as thoroughly and have a stronger flavor near the intensity of honey and can be mixed with strong flavored drinks such as Dulce de Tequila and many of the fruity Margaritas. The darkest nectar is likened to molasses.

Substituting Agave Nectar for Simple Syrup:

Agave nectar is said to be 1 1/2 times sweeter than sugar and it can be used in almost any cocktail that calls for simple syrup. The recipe needs to be adapted to make up for that additional sweetness:

It is usually best to cut the amount of syrup by 1/2 to 1/4 of that suggested when using agave nectar. For example, if a recipe asks for 1 tablespoon of simple syrup, you would use 1/2-3/4 tablespoon depending on your personal taste.

Adjusting Agave Nectar:

If agave nectar is too sweet for you, you may want to water it down. Do this by mixing the nectar and distilled water at a 1:1 ratio and stirring until completely mixed. Some recipes will also ask you to mix the agave nectar with another liquid such as the Borrachon Cocktail, which uses balsamic vinegar and nectar to create an interesting syrup.

Agave nectar can also be infused with flavor in a manner similar to flavored simple syrups. Some flavorings, such as cinnamon can simply be mixed into (ground cinnamon) or infused into (cinnamon sticks) a desired amount of nectar and used in drinks like the Homecoming Caipirinha. Other flavoring may want to use a water infusion method similar to this Spa Nectar to ensure a full flavor.

Agave Nectar Cocktails:

It may be rather obvious that agave nectar is ideal in tequila cocktails, though it also pairs nicely with most other spirits. As the Coriandrum and Organic Sensation cocktails (links below) demonstrate, agave nectar can also be infused with flavors and is great to have around for something as simple as sweetening a cup of tea.

 

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