In the span of a few months, a new ingredient has found its place behind many of New York’s top notch bars. Agave Nectar, made from the heart of the tequila producing plant, is replacing simple syrup as the cocktail sweetener of choice. The flavor isn’t as sugary as standard sweeteners. More like honey, it avoids the wallop of saccharine that can accompany a hefty squeeze of simple syrup. It also lacks honey’s viscosity, so it dissolves easily into any mix.
Mexican restaurants were the first adopters. The city’s growing fascination with tequila and demand for top-notch cocktails led to experimentation with the classic margarita. Creative combinations of fresh lime juice, lavender infused tequila and Serrano chilies were added to the recipe. To balance it out, bartenders reached for this smooth sweetener. Now, the nectar is ubiquitous at cocktail lounges like the East Village’s mezcal bar Mayahuel.
The ingredient caught on and quickly expanded to other spots, even those with a focus on classic cocktails. A visit to the newly opened Ace Hotel confirmed that their house cocktails are sweetened with the nectar. Most of the trendy patrons probably don’t realize that their drinks contain this new twist, but judging by their pleased expressions, the change is a popular one.
For those who want to experiment, Herradura Tequila makes a squeezable agave nectar that retails for around $7.99 a bottle. You can check it out here, and start contemplating your take on a better margarita.
James Mulcahy writes about spirits and New York nightlife at his blog, NYBarfly.com.