The *Even* Simpler Simple Syrup Your Cocktails Have Been Waiting For

September 19, 2018

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. Photo by Julia Gartland

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

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“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. 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.

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.

Shake Up Your Sweetener

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.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jon Preston
    Jon Preston
  • Robert Everett Hannan
    Robert Everett Hannan
  • Steven Vaughan
    Steven Vaughan
  • Steve
  • Marie Frank
    Marie Frank
Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


Jon P. June 15, 2021
A Gin Rickey does NOT have sweetener. Sounds delicious but it's not a rickey, its more like a Southside. The first mention of a Rickey was in the 1890's using half a lime 2 oz rye whiskey topped off with sparkling water, in the 20's Gin was substituted for whiskey.
Robert E. February 29, 2020
. . . you vigorously shake it with the seltzer already added? I think I’ll wait and add it later, if at all.
Steven V. December 28, 2018
Agave does has a flavor that just can’t be achieved with simple syrup. To make a simple syrup that even compared to agave, I found myself using much more sugar than the ordinary simple syrup recipe required.
Steve September 20, 2018
Simple Syrup

Yield: 7 fl oz


I store it in the fridge, in an 8 ounce ex-agave nectar bottle. My method makes just enough to refill the bottle, and it is designed to be as quick and as easy as possible.


1/2 cup water
4 ounces sugar
2 teaspoons vodka, for shelf life


1. Use an 8 oz Pyrex measuring cup.
Add water to the container.
Place on scale and tare.
Add 4 oz of sugar.

2. Microwave using the Beverage button.
Stir a bit. Pour it into the storage bottle.
Put lid on and shake it up to be sure the sugar is fully dissolved.
Add the vodka to keep the micro bugs out, and shake it one more time.
Marie F. September 20, 2018
Actually, agave nectar is not a "healthy" alternative to sugar. The processing of this product produces lots of fructose, and as a result affects the body in a negative way.
Jeff September 20, 2018
A quick way to make simple syrup is in the Vitamix. Add the sugar and water, turn to high and let it run for a minute or two. It will be cloudy, but will clear with some time.
Chris September 19, 2018
"it's less bother than simple syrup" made me laugh. i'm actually sitting here typing this trying to decide which is easier to make, simple syrup or a cup-o-noodles and i can't come up with a clear cut winner. don't get me wrong, i keep agave nectar at arms reach at all times when i'm bartending, it's a great ingredient for any and every kind of cocktail. i'll even give you the idea that agave is a "healthier" alternative than sugar water, but for some cocktails i want a flavor-neutral sweetener that doesn't alter the intended taste of the drink (mojitos or caipirinhas, for example). a good bartender will have both.
M September 19, 2018
Making sugar water sound like a hassle to promote agave syrup is a bit much for a site dedicated to cooking, especially since this site has already proven that you don't have to cook a darned thing to make simple syrup.
Chris September 19, 2018
lmao. guess we're literally on the same page with this.
M September 20, 2018
Hard not to be. $10 and a store trip to acquire more plastic... Or cook up some SS while doing other cooking. Easier yet, pour some of your excess hot water over sugar when making tea/coffee. Easier YET, throw sugar and water into a jar and stir/shake it until dissolved while doing almost anything else. You can even pour sucralose over water and watch it instantly dissolve into a super-sweet no-cal syrup.