A Guide to Liquid Sweeteners

Easily Add a Sweet Touch to Your Favorite Drinks


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Liquid sweeteners are very handy for a variety of beverages. Cold drinks like iced coffee and iced tea can be difficult to sweeten with regular sugar because it doesn't dissolve all the way. Even hot drinks can be enhanced with the variety of liquid sweeteners available.

When you want to give your next drink a sweet touch, turn to one of these. Some work out better for some drinks while others are universal and can easily sweeten up almost any drink you're making.

Simple Syrup

Essentially, simple syrup is liquid sugar, and it's sometimes called sugar syrup. It is sugar that is added to boiling water until it becomes a somewhat thick syrup. It's incredibly easy to make simple syrup at home and each batch costs just a few pennies. You can even use artificial sweeteners instead of cane sugar to make a syrup that fits a special diet.

Unlike table sugar, simple syrup is easy to blend with iced beverages because the sugar is already dissolved. If you regularly sweeten any type of drink—from hot and cold coffee or tea to cocktails—it's a good idea to keep a bottle in your refrigerator. 

Homemade simple syrups can easily be flavored as well. Simply add fruit, spices, herbs, or other ingredients to the mixture as it boils, then strain them out afterward. For coffee, a cinnamon syrup is excellent and many black teas are nice with a little ginger syrup.

Flavored syrups are also the foundation for homemade sodas. All you need to add is sparkling water.


Honey is one of the best liquid sweeteners available and it's likely that you have some in your kitchen. It adds a nice, rich sweetness to any drink. It is perfect for any of your iced teas or cold coffees, though it's really nice in hot drinks as well. Keep in mind that honey is sweeter than sugar, so start small.

Different types of honey suit different types of coffee and tea. In general, tupelo honey works well with tea and a bolder honey, such as wildflower honey, works well with spicy or full-flavored coffees. However, you can experiment with various combinations to find your favorite.

Buying local honey is always a good idea. It supports beekeepers in your area and helps the local environment because bees are important pollinators whose numbers are dwindling drastically.

You can find local honey at the honey locator through the National Honey Board. Not every beekeeper is registered, though. Many grocers stock locally-produced honey and it can often be found at small, local shops and farmers markets.

Agave Nectar

Agave nectar was once a product you had to hunt down in health and natural food stores. Thankfully, this is no longer the case. It has become one of the most popular liquid sweeteners and is available in almost every grocery store.

Agave nectar is a sweet syrup that is similar in consistency to honey. Just like tequila, it is made from the agave plant, though it contains no alcohol. Instead, the agave piñas are baked and the sweet juice is extracted then concentrated down into a syrup.

Agave nectar has a flavor that is between honey and molasses and it is available in various grades. It's best with bolder teas, such as Assam or Ceylon black teas, and is great with many coffees. It can be used in hot or cold drinks, including lemonade and sweet teas. You can use about the same amount of agave nectar as you would honey.


Molasses is the by-product of the sugar-making process. It is typically used for cooking and can be found in the baking section of grocery stores. 

For drinks, molasses needs to be used very carefully. It is very thick and has a deep, dark flavor. You only need a little bit to sweeten a beverage. It is best suited for coffee, particularly rich, spicy coffees, like Brazilians, Konas, and Colombians.

Fruit Juice

Fruit juice can be a flavorful sweetener for iced coffee or tea as well. Fruits are naturally sweet, so it can add an interesting twist to some drinks.

Traditionally, iced tea is blended with lemon juice in the Southern United States. You can also use cranberry, raspberry, or any of the common fruit blends to give your iced tea a little boost.

There are some fun combinations to be found with coffee as well. For instance, you can try blending a mango-coffee smoothie or add a splash of raspberry juice to an Ethiopian coffee.