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Is Alcohol Vegan? A Guide to Vegan Booze

Is alcohol vegan
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Pexels

A vegan lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to steer clear of alcohol altogether, but there are some ingredients to avoid. Here’s a guide on how to pick vegan alcohol and drinks.

Is alcohol vegan? At first glance, this may sound like a silly question, but if you take a closer look into the distillation and brewery processes of various alcoholic beverages, you might be surprised to find that sometimes, no, these beverages may not be vegan. Here’s why.  

A basic understanding of the production of alcoholic beverages will lead most to understand these as primarily being made with vegan-friendly ingredients such as yeast, grapes, various grains, potatoes, agave, and sugar cane. However, non-vegan ingredients are often used as fining agents or for flavoring in alcoholic beverages.

Because spirits, beer, and wine aren’t subject to the same laws as food, there are no requirements in labeling booze with ingredients or even a vegan label. Thus, it can be difficult to pick out alcoholic products that are truly vegan.

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Alcohol: These Ingredients Are Not Vegan

Alcohol is not always vegan.
Alcohol is not always vegan.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / holmespj)

Some ingredients such as egg whites and honey may be familiar and make sense to watch out for when trying to order a vegan cocktail at the bar, but it’s important to be aware of the other ingredients used during production that may make an alcoholic beverage no longer vegan-friendly. 

  • Isinglass, an ingredient derived from fish, is a commonly used fining agent used for the filtration of some beer and wine to assist with the clarification process. 
  • Whey, casein, and lactose are milk byproducts that are sometimes used as fining agents in the production of beer and wine.
  • Gelatin, often taken from animal collagen, is another product that is sometimes used as a fining agent.
  • Egg whites can be used as a fining agent in wine. Eggs may also be added to some cocktails.
  • Milk and cream are sometimes added to beer and liqueurs for a creamy and rich flavor. They’re also sometimes used in cocktails.
  • Honey is the base ingredient in the fermentation of mead. It may also be used as a sweetener in alcoholic beverages. 
  • Cochineal and carmine are red dyes made from insects called cochineal. They are often used to gain a bright red color in popular amari (Italian liqueurs) such as Campari and Aperol.

Is Beer Vegan? These Brands Are

More breweries are beginning to label their bottles and cans as vegan, but some still use traditional methods using animal products for their clarification process, so stay vigilant.
More breweries are beginning to label their bottles and cans as vegan, but some still use traditional methods using animal products for their clarification process, so stay vigilant.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / PeterKraayvanger)

Though beer is typically made with a base of barley malt, hops, water, and yeast, this doesn’t always mean it’s vegan-friendly. As touched upon, during the clarification process, some brewers will use isinglass or gelatin. 

However, beer can be clarified with vegan-friendly options such as Irish sea moss and silica gel. Many brewery companies provide a vegan label on the bottle. Otherwise and in the case of microbreweries, you can usually just ask the staff at the brewery or give them a call to find out if their beer is vegan. 

Most microbreweries will offer at least one vegan option, so it’s important to ask and find out more about if they use any animal products during their clarification process. We at utopia also recommend doing your best to source your vegan (and ideally organic) beer from a local microbrewery whenever possible. They usually have better flavor, are more likely to use local ingredients, and offer a wider variety of options anyways. Here’s a small list of the expansive amount of microbreweries that offer vegan beer:

Wine: How to Identify Vegan Brands

Look for the vegan label when buying wine.
Look for the vegan label when buying wine.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Vinotecarium)

When searching for vegan drinks, wine may seem like an obvious option. But this popular drink isn’t always vegan either: Wine of course is made through the fermentation of grapes, but production techniques might make this beverage non-vegan. 

Just as in the brewing of beer, wine often undergoes a fining or clarification process where animal products are sometimes used. In order to extract any cloudiness that may exist in the wine, egg whites (albumin) are used in the case of red wine and milk protein (or casein) is used for white wine. 

Alternatively, some wine producers are turning towards the use of clay to clarify their wine to maintain a vegan product. Some wine bottles may have a vegan label to make the decision-making process easier. Others will only list “unfined” or “unfiltered” to indicate they haven’t used any fining or clarification agents whatsoever. 

When in doubt, just look up the wine producer as they will make it clear whether or not their wine is vegan on their website or simply call the vineyard for clarification. Similar to beer, the list of vegan wine producers is growing. Do your best to find a vegan wine local to your region.

Here’s a list of USA produced vegan wine:

Spirits: Most Alcohol is Vegan

Alcohol is a much more straightforward option to indulge in as a vegan. Just watch out for flavored alcohol or the use of cream, honey, and egg whites in cocktails.
Alcohol is a much more straightforward option to indulge in as a vegan. Just watch out for flavored alcohol or the use of cream, honey, and egg whites in cocktails.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / SocialButterflyMMG)

While it can be difficult to ensure your beer and wine are truly vegan, spirits such as whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum are usually more straightforward. That’s because almost all alcohol is vegan, unless it’s flavored. Many brands have already taken the first step in labeling their bottles vegan themselves. If a bottle isn’t labeled as vegan and it’s not possible to find out from the company directly, the first step is in knowing how to identify when an animal product is being used.

Products like honey or cream may be used as flavorings or sweeteners, so it’s best to stick to alcohol that you can be sure isn’t using these. Staying clear of flavored alcohol and liquors will ensure that you don’t consume any non-vegan ingredients. You can always check the label to see if they are vegan, with the company’s website, or calling directly to a staff person to get your answer. In general, avoid alcohol such as honey whiskey and any cream liquors. 

Keep an eye out for cocktails with egg whites or cream in them as well. Both ingredients are usually used to make a drink thick and creamy, but obviously neither are not vegan-friendly. Many bars are turning to the use of aquafaba, a garbanzo bean-based alternative to egg whites (more on this below).

Bars sometimes use honey to sweeten their drinks, but also usually have simple syrup (a sugar syrup) or agave as an option. So, just make sure your bartender knows to substitute the honey if necessary. 

One tip to help ensure you get a vegan drink is to order a drink on the simple side such as a vodka soda or a daiquiri – make sure they use simple syrup and not honey. When in doubt, simply ask your bartender for help to ensure you enjoy a vegan drink. Many bars are accustomed to providing vegan options and have helpful and knowledgable staff to ensure you find something suitable and vegan. 

Still unsure of how to pick vegan alcohol? Here’s a list of vegan liquor brands and products:

Aquafaba: Vegan Alternative to Eggwhites

Getting jealous of your friend's egg white cocktail? Start using aquafaba to make your own beautiful, airy vegan cocktail.
Getting jealous of your friend’s egg white cocktail? Start using aquafaba to make your own beautiful, airy vegan cocktail.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / robert84ak)

Don’t get too alarmed by the amount of hidden non-vegan ingredients that might show up in your drinks if you aren’t paying attention. Once you get used to the usual culprits, you’ll realize vegans can drink the majority of alcoholic beverages. 

Egg white cocktails such as the classic whiskey sour may have you tempted to break your veganism, but there is no need with the substitution of aquafaba. Aquafaba is a garbanzo bean-based alternative to egg whites that can be used in cocktails. Just like egg whites, aquafaba forms binds and is able to create a vegan drink where the liquid whips and foams creating an airy, fluffy vegan cocktail. 

Check out Aquafaba: What It Is and How To Make It to make your own aquafaba at home and then create your own vegan cocktails. 

There are many routes you can take if you want to make sure you have vegan alcohol options. You don’t have to limit yourself to only beer and wine, you can even try out fancy cocktail bars or try making your own vegan cocktails at home. The more knowledgeable you are about what ingredients and practices to watch out for, the easier it is to choose vegan drinks. 

Is This Vegan? Alcohol Brand-Check

Check out Barnivore to search for whether a specific brand you like is vegan. Their entries have been double-checked by their vegan community and you can even submit an entry of your own — see if there’s an alcoholic beverage you can’t find among the over 50 thousand entries!

Read more: 

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