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The next big bummer: Agave syrup is not natural, not good for you, worse than HFCS

First of all - sorry, that I haven't posted for quite some time. I am still in the process of moving over from the modern Yas Viceroy to the venerable Ladies & Gentlemen of the Ritz Carlton Dubai [JBR] - and for the moment I have morning shifts [orientation and familiarisation]. Today I actually discovered that I have a morning allergy [I made this up - but I guess, it would be an amazing excuse, for never come in the morning]…

Anyway - besides of getting to know the new hotel, I am already in full effect with the overhauling with beverage menus.
As in the Middle East, a bigger fraction of people are looking for alcohol-free drinks and ordering sometimes "paradox" things like virgin margaritas, I was researching, if there is anything like agave flavored syrup. Obviously the search engine results are full of references to agave nectar.

But under the results I also found the very interesting website, which stated the question, if agave nectar is good for you.

Truth has to be told, I was always under the impression, that agave syrup is similar healthy as honey. It is natural, so it has to be good, duh…

Turns out, that it isn't! Agave nectar is not a traditional product, it is not a "pre-stage" of pulque [the quite nasty agave brew, which are nowadays rarely consumed, however was the alcohol of choice for the indigenous civilisations of Latin America, before the conquestadors shared their distilling and beer brewing expertise].
Agave nectar is very similar produced like high fructose corn syrup. It is produced by breaking down
the inulin [a complex carbohydrate] of the agave piña into mostly fructose. Which stuns me is, that it is obviously even worse than HFCS. While latter contents 55% fructose, agave syrup contains 70%.

I don't really have to mirror all the information of food renegade here. Just go to the link and read the eye opening post:

While I am surprised on the health indication of agave syrup, I was always a bit suspicious about the benefit in mixology. A lot of people are raving about and it is definitely a trend. Some so called mixologists are making their house-made syrups on base of agave syrup [funny, that they will end up with something they could have much cheaper with a bottle of HFCS].

Personally I was never really 100% hooked. If you taste agave nectar, you will realize, if you are objective, that it is just sweet. There is no agave taste, whatsoever. And why should I pay the premium price, if it doesn't really have a taste advantage?

One big promoter [and I guess, this is the only reason for the popularity of agave nectar] was the Tommy's Margarita. And even now, after I realize that agave nectar is a deceptive package, I still "dig" this cocktail. But it seems, that you might just use candy rock syrup [or similar high concentrated sugar syrup] - or HFCS - which would be odd. A Tommy's Margarita just works due to the fact, that you take out the distracting aromas [from the orange liqueur] and substitute them with a neutral sweetener. The agave denomination is just a "nice story" which works obviously with a tequila cocktail - but functionally it would be not relevant.

Even funnier is, that it seems, that very few people dig deeper and tried to fully understood the ingredient agave nectar. If you are looking around, several organic and premium syrups, sodas and other condiments are made with this product. It seems to be given, that the idea was, to considerably position their product away from the HFCS loaded products - and even be healthier than products with sugar. Turns out to be an interrupted cadence.

My suggestion? I want to be a bit carefully. For the moment, I would suggest raw [organic] agave nectar. It is darker than the normal one, and definitely inhibits a bit more flavor. But I just recommend it to do a Tommy's Margarita with it. Just don't get crazy with this ingredient. It is not good for your guests and the quality is questionable.

In future [for my menus and upcoming new drinks] I try to do a sugar based agave flavored syrup. I will try to find some agave leaves, will cook them in water [maybe with a pressure cooker, maybe long time in a plastic pouch] and will use the water to make a rich syrup. Off course, there is a considerable chance, that this will fail - but I have already other ideas in my sleeve, to make a tasty agave nectar substitute, which might be not healthy, but at least not so harmful.

I am eager for your thoughts - please comment below.
Please also check also food renegade - don't take my [or their] word for granted, though it makes a lot of sense, what it is indicated there.


  1. Perhaps I read too quickly, but if you are saying agave nectar has no flavor advantage over rock candy or simple syrup... respectfully, you're dead wrong. Agave nectar has plenty of flavor and work perfectly in fresh margaritas (whereas natural dakr and light cane syrups work better in Daiquiris. Rock candy and simple syrup are simply sweet with no flavor. Great article otherwise, thank you for sharing.

    1. Dear…. anonymous [why don't you just say your name?] - I am not sure, if you are using a completely different product. But all agave syrups I used, were almost totally tasteless. This makes sense, if you see, that 70% is fructose - which definitely doesn't occur naturally in the agave. The raw organic agave nectar imparted little flavor - but didn't really tasted like agave either.

      I think we have to make us free from perception. i guess most people accept [often subconsciously] that agave nectar taste like agave - due to the source, due to the name, due to the reputation!
      I am pretty sure though, if I would let you blind test and would swap the agave syrup for corn syrup, you would not recognize it. Agave nectar has the same prospect to taste like agave, than corn syrup taste like maize.

      And you have to also consider the texture. Off course it has [like corn syrup] a completely different texture as simple syrup. This makes a huge difference [as long as you tasting it alone].

  2. Please be aware that agave can also cause very severe allergic reactions. I am just recovering from analphylatic shock from drinking a margarita and now realize I am allergic to agave. Server at restaurant said it's common for people to have a reaction. Doesn't seem worth using.

    1. Not sure about this… I guess than you would be also allergic to tequila!?
      But maybe they are also using an inferior product. In all my time using agave nectar / tequila, I never have someone complaining or mentioning, that they are allergic to it.


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