A cactus-based sugary syrup has become the latest darling of the alternative-sweetener world.

Once mostly unheard of outside natural food stores, agave syrup — made from the same Mexican cactus that yields tequila — suddenly is getting celebrity endorsements, competing for shelf space at mainstream grocers and is a must-have cocktail ingredient.

“If I’m going to be making a premium margarita, agave nectar’s got to be riding shotgun,” says Food Network star Guy Fieri, better known for his greasy spoon affection than his natural foods know-how.

Now I’m a big fan of agave syrup, using it for cocktails as well as for cooking, but having been in the cactus business now for a while I feel the cactus pedant coming out. Look out.

Agave is not a cactus. It is a succulent in the lily family (liliaceae) or at least the agave family (agavaceae) depending on who you ask.

Agave is a genus within the family Agavaceae, which is currently placed within the order Asparagales. Agaves were once classified in Liliaceae, but most references now include them in their own family, Agavaceae.

But definitely not a cactus, for it has no areoles.

opuntia

Science!