Is vegan alcohol a thing? Isn’t all alcohol vegan? These are all common questions for anyone looking to enjoy their favorite beer, wine, spirits, and other alcoholic drinks while pursuing a plant-based diet!
The answers, however, can be unfortunately complicated! As a vegan, you don’t have to give up all alcohol (in fact, most of your favorite beers, wines, and spirits are probably vegan-friendly). But as a vegan, you do need to be careful of certain alcoholic production techniques and hidden ingredients that might not be so vegan-friendly.
In this article, we examine what alcohol is vegan and explain how you can find out if your favorite beverage is vegan or not vegan.
Can vegans drink alcohol?
Let’s get things straight. Vegans CAN drink alcohol. The terms vegan and alcohol are far from mutually exclusive!
In fact, vegan-friendly alcohol is probably more common than non-vegan alcohol, so you don’t have to worry about giving up drinking if you decide to become plan-based. The problem vegans have when drinking alcohol is that some drinks might contain small quantities of animal products, and others may have been prepared using non-vegan techniques.
Unfortunately, there’s not much regulation when it comes to drink producers labeling their bottles. While it’s increasingly common for manufacturers to make it a visible point if their drinks are vegan alcoholic drinks, there are still many more producers that don’t make this information easy to find.
For the most part, though, wine, beer, and spirit producers are leaning towards vegan wishes and are advertising if their products are vegan or not.
Is alcohol vegan?
Vegan ingredients are more common than not in alcoholic beverages; but is all alcohol vegan? Unfortunately not.
While some non-vegan ingredients might be obvious (Baileys is made using cream, for instance), it’s not so easy to spot when your favorite wine has been filtered using fish guts (yes, that’s a thing, and for some reason, no one ever advertises it…).
Wine producers, for instance, traditionally use isinglass to filter their batches before bottling, in a process known as ‘fining.’ Isinglass is a fish product (yes, fish guts), and it’s used to filter out imperfections from the liquid. Some beers also use isinglass in the filtering process, but they rarely mention if they do on the bottle - and unless you know what isinglass is, you might not know this is a non-vegan product anyway!
There are a number of non-vegan alcohol ingredients that you can look out for, however, in your search for plant-based alcohol. They include the following non-vegan ingredients:
- Dairy products - alcohol can contain cream or even milk. Some beers (Milk Stouts, for instance) contain lactose. Milk proteins, such as casein are also traditionally used in the brewing process for many beers or as a fining agent for filtering purposes.
- Eggs - it sounds strange to say, but yes, there could be eggs in your alcohol. Albumin, or egg white protein, is a common fining agent, particularly in wines.
- Isinglass - this is the traditional fining agent for wine and beer, and yes, it’s derived from fish guts.
- Gelatin - another popular fining agent, gelatin is produced from animal products.
- Chitin - a less common fining agent, but one to still look out for. Chitin is derived from shellfish.
- Non-vegan sweeteners - traditional non vegan sweeteners include the likes of honey, and this can be a common ingredient in many flavored beers.
We should note, however, that while fining agents used to filter alcohol have traditionally been non-vegan (isinglass or casein, for example), the majority of major alcohol producers have already switched to vegan fining agents. Guinness, for example, traditionally used isinglass in their beer, but in 2016 switched away from this.
How can I find vegan drinks?
So, do vegans drink alcohol? Of course. But how do vegans find vegan alcohol if the producers don’t have to advertise their ingredients or production processes?
Admittedly, that does sound challenging. And for many years, it was a struggle for vegans to be absolutely sure they weren’t consuming animal products. These days, however, it’s a lot easier.
For starters, there’s an established vegan alcohol list out there, consisting of well-known vegan brands and producers. The majority of major, international brands are going to be on that list, as it’s just as easy for them to use vegan products in their production processes.
Bottles won’t necessarily advertise the fact that the drink is actually vegan, and we’d be surprised if the bartender or supermarket staff know the intricacies of the drink’s production process. However, you can usually find out this information on the company’s website or do a little digging online for specific drinks that you are worried about.
Smaller suppliers, such as your local vineyard or craft brewer, might still be using non-vegan products. In this situation, the only certain method is asking them directly if their drinks are vegan-friendly.
We’ve listed in more detail popular vegan wine brands, vegan beers, and vegan liquor brands. Keep a few of these in mind the next time you’re at the bar, and you’ll always have something to drink!
Is wine vegan?
Wine drinkers can have a tough time being vegan because there are still a vast number of producers that use animal products in their production process.
Wine, though, is made from grapes. Remove the problem of isinglass or milk protein from the process, and you have vegan wine!
This is a problem that’s becoming far less prevalent, too. The vegan wines list is getting longer and longer by the day as producers switch to vegan-friendly products and processes.
As there are so many different wineries, you’ll need to check with the individual supplier if they stock vegan wines.
Is beer vegan?
Can vegans drink beer? Yes, but beer suffers from the same ailment as wine, in respect of the fact that some beers are not vegan.
For beer drinkers, though, it’s becoming less of a problem. Almost every major beer brewer sells vegan beer (even if they don’t explicitly say this). Vegan beers include Budweiser, Corona, Coors, and many more.
Smaller beer brewers might be more traditional, too, but really, it’s the craft beers and the flavored beers that you have to be wary of.
Is vodka vegan?
Luckily for the harder drinkers, vegan spirits are the easiest vegan alcohol to spot. In fact, spirits are the original plant-based drink, and it’s extremely rare for them to contain any animal products or to have any non vegan distillation processes.
Basically, if it’s see-through and it hasn’t been flavored, you can be confident that your vegan spirits are vegan!
Is rum vegan?
The same can be said of rum. It’s not see-through like vodka, but there’s no reason why your favorite rum brand would not be vegan.
Whether it’s dark rum or light rum, the distillation process has absolutely no need for animal products. Unlike wine and beer, there’s no need to add fining agents, as the resulting liquid is already clear of imperfections when it comes out of the distiller.
As with any other drink, though, be careful of any brands that have flavored rums, as these could contain non-vegan products.
Is whiskey vegan?
Like your other strong liquors, whiskey is also considered vegan. This holds true for all varieties of whiskey, whether it’s Scotch or Bourbon.
Because whiskey is distilled, there’s again no need for the use of fining agents in the production process. The ingredients in whiskey are also all vegan.
The only problem is that some of the most popular brands of Bourbon have taken to marketing honey-flavored whiskey. As you can expect, if there’s honey in your whiskey, it’s not going to be vegan.
These bottles are obvious in the shop, but in bars, it might be worth double-checking which whiskey is being poured if you’re ordering whiskey-based cocktails.
Is champagne vegan?
For all you champagne lovers out there, the same problem exists with this drink as we have with wine and beer.
Champagne is essentially a fizzy version of wine. During the production process, there’s a point where the wine is carbonated, giving us that distinct fizz and pop when we open up a bottle to celebrate.
Like wine, champagne also needs to be ‘fined’ using a fining agent. Traditionally, this would have been isinglass or another product derived from animals. Champagne is a very traditional drink (indeed, to be called ‘Champagne’, the bottle must technically originate from the Champagne region of France), so it’s highly likely that traditional processes are still being used by the manufacturer.
Again, try and check if you can on the manufacturer’s website. The same holds true for other varieties of sparkling wine, such as Prosecco or Cava, too.
Vegan alcohol: the last round!
We’d say it’s time for a drink, as we draw to a close on our guide to vegan alcohol. That was a lot of information to get through, so we’re happy to say you’ve earned a glass of vegan red wine or a vegan-friendly beer!
As with many traditional consumables, it’s often unfortunately unclear as to whether particular products are vegan or not. Luckily, things are getting easier, and you can rest assured that your favorite beer is probably vegan, these days!
There are a lot of resources out there to utilize, though, so always double check if you’re unsure what to order at the bar! Why not bookmark our guide to vegan alcohol, for your next night out?