Sweet taste cells play critical roles in food selection and feeding behaviors. Drosophila sweet neurons express eight gustatory receptors (Grs) belonging to a highly conserved clade in insects. Despite ongoing efforts, little is known about the fundamental principles that underlie how sweet tastants are detected by these receptors. Here, we provide a systematic functional analysis of Drosophila sweet receptors using the ab1C CO2-sensing olfactory neuron as a unique in vivo decoder. We find that each of the eight receptors of this group confers sensitivity to one or more sweet tastants, indicating direct roles in ligand recognition for all sweet receptors. Receptor response profiles are validated by analysis of taste responses in corresponding Gr mutants. The response matrix shows extensive overlap in Gr-ligand interactions and loosely separates sweet receptors into two groups matching their relationships by sequence. We then show that expression of a bitter taste receptor confers sensitivity to selected aversive tastants that match the responses of the neuron that the Gr is derived from. Finally, we characterize an internal fructose-sensing receptor, Gr43a, and its ortholog in the malaria mosquito, AgGr25, in the ab1C expression system. We find that both receptors show robust responses to fructose along with a number of other sweet tastants. Our results provide a molecular basis for tastant detection by the entire repertoire of sweet taste receptors in the fly and lay the foundation for studying Grs in mosquitoes and other insects that transmit deadly diseases.