How do alternative sweeteners stack up?

Q: I have had a lot of interest from guests in alternative sweeteners in cocktails. How do they stack up? I'm especially interested in rice syrups, agave nectars and stevia, although I find stevia to be bitter.

A: Alternative sweeteners are an attractive choice for many reasons. First and foremost, consumers are looking at alternatives to refined white sugar for both health and lifestyle reasons. Providing them healthy choices in their cocktails just makes good sense. Agave nectar is vegan friendly and it’s about 90 percent fructose (as opposed to sucrose), which is very important to those watching their glycemic index. Most importantly, in my view, is that it tastes great and brings another layer of flavor to the party.

Rice and barley syrups are gaining in popularity and are already in a liquid form (like agave nectar) so they are easily integrated into your favorite cocktails.

Stevia, extracted from a South American herb, is gaining attention as a natural sweetener. However, there have been some health concerns regarding stevia, so many are waiting to see what further research reveals. Last but not least, don’t underestimate the allure of organic products. Spirits companies are scrambling to produce organic products; adding processed ingredients to these spirits would negate their perceived value.

Expert: Sean Ludford, Director,