Margaritaville with science: agave nectar vs simple syrup.

posted by Dave Arnold

Nils and I finished teaching a two-day intensive hydrocolloid class today so we hadn’t managed to get any posts together. At the end of the class the perfect Friday evening post presented itself. One of the people in the class said how much he liked to use agave nectar in his tequila drinks. Nils and I shot back that agave nectar doesn’t have much flavor (which is true) and that it’s  little more than expensive simple syrup. A heated discussion ensued. The only possible resolution was a blind taste test.


Here’s what we did:
It was decided that the drink would be tequila, lime and sweetener shaken with ice –no orange flavor, no salt (not really a margarita but what the hey). We needed to get the sweetness level the same in both drinks so we used a refractometer to measure the sugar content of our simple syrup and agave nectar.


Unfortunately, my refractometer was designed for home brewing and doesn’t register super dense syrups, so we watered down a sample of both syrups 4 parts water to 1 part syrup and measured the results. The agave was 1.77 times sweeter than the simple syrup. The final mix was 160 grams of 901 tequila (we had a bottle left from the Justin Timberlake event), 45 grams of lime juice, 190 grams of ice, and 50 grams of simple syrup in one and 28 grams of agave in the other (no, I didn’t add an extra 22 grams of water to the agave one, I was tired, all right!). I was supposed to shake the drinks at the same time in identical shakers but hit one more speed bump: the extra 22 grams of water in the simple syrup drink meant it wouldn’t fit in my shaker, so I threw it in a quart container with a lid and shook.


The taste panel
The taste panel

The results:
The two drinks were vastly different. The consensus was that the agave nectar drink was deeper, more complex, had a longer finish, and was more tequila-y (in the sense of blanco tequila), than the simple syrup one. The simple syrup was deemed cleaner and fresher tasting. Three people said they outright preferred the agave nectar until Nils said, “It depends, during the daytime or at the beach I’d prefer the simple syrup, at night at a bar or with food I want the agave.” Everyone could agree to that.

Our notes
Our notes

9 thoughts on “Margaritaville with science: agave nectar vs simple syrup.

  1. You’ll never believe it, but I had the same discussion with some friends tonight while making margaritas. We may have ended up with margaritas (with simple) on the bubble.

    1. We normally use 2 parts sugar to one part sugar by weight. It isn’t good for bars cause it doesn’t pour fast or mix as easily as 1 to 1, but we don’t care about that and would rather dilute the product ourselves instead of with syrup. The syrup we had for the test looked closer to 1 to 1 than our normal stuff. Anyway, we used the refractometer to adjust the two products to equal sweetness.

  2. Sorry I had to leave early, I guess I missed the fun! I need to come back for another class!

    1. Howdy Patricio,
      That is an intersting article. As you say, I don’t know how trustworthy the source is. I can easily see several science errors. I think most of the conclusions are horse-hockey.

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