There’s still a lot of mystery around Agave Syrup. For some people it’s only a hot weather modifier, for others it’s only to be used with Agave spirits, for others still it is seen as a healthy alternative. The thing about Agave is that it is all these things but more.
It is, among the sweeteners of the world, unique. It has the consistency of honey but a much more neutral taste, it has almost double the sweetness of sugar syrup, yet it has a lower glycemic index.
Made from the sap of the agave plant (as opposed to the flesh of the pina from which tequila is derived), the perceived sweetness of agave syrup is sweeter than sugar. This means you can use less than you normally would for the same sweetness in a drink.
Is Agave Nectar a Healthy Sweetener?
It’s commonly believed that as Agave Syrup is derived from the Agave plant, it is more natural and perhaps healthier than other sweetener alternatives. And while the syrup has some points in its favour, whether it is healthier is a matter of debate.
While Agave Syrup is lower on the glycemic index than other refined sugar alternatives, this means that it will affect your blood sugar more slowly than refined sugar.
However, agave nectar is 90 percent fructose, and too much fructose can raise triglycerides and affect insulin.
How Is Agave Syrup Made?
Agave nectar is made from the juice of the agave plant. As in the production of Tequila, Agave Syrup typically begins with 7- to 10-year-old agave plants in Mexico from which the piñas are harvested.
The juice, or sap, is extracted from the piña, filtered, then heated slowly at low temperatures until the carbohydrates are broken down into sugar. “Raw” agave syrup is that which has been heated to no more than 117 F.
Also, like tequila, some of the best agave nectars are the products of the blue agave and labels will clearly state if that nectar is “100% Blue Agave.”
Agave Nectar Cocktails and Mixed Drinks
While Agave Syrup is indeed perfect for Agave spirits, it shouldn’t be left to them alone. Tequila and Mezcal work wonderfully with Agave, but it also plays well with other distilled spirits like Whiskey, Gin, Vodka & Rum.
Agave Syrup can also be infused with flavour in a manner similar to flavoured simple syrups. Cinnamon sticks or a Vanilla bean can easily be infused to add some character to the syrup.
Agave nectar is actually quite versatile and is a good (lower calorie) substitute for simple syrup or triple sec in an array of cocktails, like the Sidecar, Cosmopolitan and Mojito.
Substituting Agave Nectar for Simple Syrup in Drinks
Agave nectar is said to be 1 1/2 times sweeter than sugar, and it can be used in almost any drink 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 one tablespoon of simple syrup, you would use 1/2 to 3/4 tablespoon of agave nectar, depending on your personal taste.