Agave Wine Is the Not-So-Secret Ingredient in Your Favorite Canned Cocktails

Learn more about this low-ABV tequila substitute derived from the agave plant.

canned cocktails

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Ready-to-drink cocktails are more popular than ever, and it's easy to see why—they are convenient and delicious. The latest ingredient to make a splash in this category? Agave wine. Commonly used in canned margarita cocktails, agave wine—like tequila—is derived from the agave plant; it isn't at all related to wine made from grapes grown in a vineyard. This ingredient is new to most of us and worth exploring if you plan on trying out a few canned drinks this summer.

What Is Agave Wine?

Agave wine is a type of wine made from the Weber Blue agave. Tequila is made from the same plant, which is why they share some similarities in flavor. The agave plant is a succulent related to the lily family—and while there are over 270 species of agave, only the Weber Blue variety is used for tequila and agave wine production.

How Agave Wine Is Made

Making agave wine is a fascinating process that begins with harvesting Weber Blue agave plants, which must be at least 10 years old. The next step is cooking the heart of the plant (called the piña; it looks similar to a pineapple) to break down its starches into simple sugars. You can then extract its syrup, called aguamiel (honey water), and ferment it. Making tequila is similar, but at this point, the process for making agave wine diverges.

Rather than distilling the fermented aguamiel into a full-strength spirit, it is simply filtered—and that liquid is called agave wine. Agave wine is naturally about 7.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV)—much lower than tequila, which can range from 35 to 55 percent. 

Fortified Agave Wine

Because agave wine is so low in alcohol content, some producers make a fortified style; they add some little distilled spirit to bring the ABV up to 17 to 24 percent. Ideally, the spirit used to fortify the agave wine is blanco tequila. If that's the case, the agave wine will be labeled "100 de Agave." Otherwise, the producer may use a cheaper blend of grain alcohol. (Some people prefer the naturally low-alcohol, un-fortified version of agave wine.)

Why Agave Wine Cocktails Are So Popular Right Now

In the United States, agave wine is mostly used as an ingredient in ready-to-drink cocktails (called RTDs for short). We have hard seltzers to thank for the new crop of canned cocktails; the popularity of pioneers like White Claw opened the door for other pre-made, portable drink innovations. It's amazing just how much they've been embraced by consumers: According to NielsenIQ, sales of RTD cocktails rose 73 percent in 2022 from the prior year.

The Wine Cocktail Trend

Wine-based cocktails are the most popular type of RTD cocktails: Over five million cases were sold last year, according to a report by Impact Databank. Consumers are more curious than ever and eager to try new flavor combinations, inspiring drinks producers to get creative and innovate with inspired offerings. Wine cocktails have traditionally meant sangria or mimosas—but using agave wine gives producers more options. It can approximate tequila in cocktails like a margarita or Paloma, but with a much lower ABV.


Using a low-ABV ingredient like agave wine fits with the current trend toward health consciousness and moderating alcohol consumption—and many new wine cocktails with this addition tout lower alcohol content, sugar, and carbohydrates.

Convenient and Accessible

Additionally, consumers are drawn to the convenience of buying agave wine cocktails in ready-to-drink containers like cans or boxes. These containers are often designed for a single serving, making them perfect for busy people who don't want to worry about calculating calories or alcohol content.

Another reason for the popularity of RTD agave wine and other lower ABV cocktails? They can be more widely distributed. The rules around what kind of alcoholic beverages can be sold under certain types of liquor licenses vary from state to state, but there are places where beer and wine licenses are easier to obtain than those for full liquor (or sales of full-strength liquor are prohibited and only beer and wine may be sold). Agave wine cocktails bridge the gap; a business might not be able to mix up a margarita, but they can crack open a low-ABV margarita in a can.

Flybird Strawberry Margarita Agave Wine Cocktail

Courtesy of Drizly

3 Agave Wine Cocktails to Try

There are plenty of RTD cocktails made with agave wine on the market. Here are three that we like:

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Martha Stewart is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.
  1. "A Mid-Year 2022 Look at RTDs."

  2. "Shanken's Impact Databank Review and Forecast: The U.S. Spirits Market."

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