Could Cocktail Culture Part Ways With Agave?

Sustainability concerns are one big issue

Agave field
Agave's future in spirits could be changing.
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When it comes to cocktails, agave plays a number of roles — both in terms of spirits made using agave and in bartenders’ use of agave in certain cocktail recipes. There’s one problem with agave’s versatility, though — scientists have raised an alarm for almost decade about blue agave and sustainability. All of which puts drinkers who enjoy agave in a difficult position — do you embrace your drink of choice or opt for a more environmentally-friendly alternative?

There may be a way forward that allows for both options, however. That’s the takeaway of a new article in Punch written by Emma Glassman-Hughes. Glassman-Hughes explored the rise of sustainable alternatives to agave in the bartending world, led by the efforts of Max Reis at the Los Angeles restaurant Mírate. Reis has developed something he calls “nogave,” which is made — in Glassman-Hughes’s words — “with Demerara sugar and orange blossom honey.” It sounds delicious.

The article also cites another reason why some bartenders are exploring alternatives to agave: agave made from immature cacti can require more processing before bringing it to market, which affects its taste. That can create a situation where agave alternatives are, arguably, more agave than actual agave. Given that there was once a point where agave grew in popularity as an alternative to simple syrup, this seems like a full-circle moment for the ingredient.

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That said, this isn’t the only development in the world of agave and sustainability. In 2022, the University of California Davis announced that it was exploring the viability of growing agave in California, with an eye towards its drought-resistant qualities. That could also have a significant impact on agave’s viability as a cocktail ingredient in the years to come.


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