When booze is vegan…

There have been very some obvious examples of using animal products in alcoholic beverages. Eliza Smith’s book, “The Compleat Housewife” printed in 1739 consist of a recipe for the “Cock Ale”:

Take ten gallons of ale, and a large cock, the older the better; parboil the cock, flay him, and stamp him in a stone mortar till his bones are broke […]

As lovely as it sounds, nowadays, alcoholic beverages are less likely to be made in such an extreme way, but they won’t always be 100% plant-based. Awareness and knowledge is crucial to be able to judge what wine you can drink and what cocktail will suit your diet or lifestyle.

I am not purely vegan but I believe that the use of animals and animal-based products should be reduced to minimum when plant-based alternatives or advanced technology can do the job.

Let’s start with Wine.

Made from happy grapes slowly ripening in sunny and stunning wine regions all around the world. That doesn’t sound harmful at all, but vegan wine is not a no-brainer and can be hard to find.

After fermentation wine carries loads of micro-elements and bacteria that left in wine can cause future issues like second fermentation, haziness or unwanted flavours. Many wineries use animal-based fining agents to remove those compounds in processes called clarification and stabilisation. For centuries egg whites and milk proteins (caseins) have been use to catch those unwanted leftovers. In fine wine production isinglass (fish by-product) is commonly used for the same purposes.

To response to the rising demand for vegetarian and vegan wines, producers are switching to Bentonite which is a type of clay with similar adhering properties but more expensive to use. Well made wine would be able to fine itself but it can take a few years of leaving it to settle, pumping over to the fresh vessel, and so on and so on. Unfortunately, this option wouldn’t work for young and fresh styles of wine and it is time and cost expensive. The new technology of sterile filters can deliver the same level of finning but it is very expensive to get, especially for small wineries.

Some people are pointing out that biodynamic wines are likely to be neither vegan nor vegetarian as in the farming process animal bones are widely used as a special compost mix. This can cause confusion as biodynamic wines are not undertaking the clarification process.


With beers the situation is similar, finning agents can be used and producers are not obligated to say that the beer isn’t vegan or vegetarian, but there are a lot of breweries stating that their beers are free from animal products. Some styles of beers can also use lactose or honey in production process.

Spirits and Cocktails

The nature of spirits doesn’t require any animal-based products but they can and they are being used. Most of them are obvious like Baileys, Advocate, Black Cow vodka, etc…

The cocktail recipe is in the hands of the bartender. Watch out for eggs in Sours and gelatine in some fancy molecular creations. It’s always best to check with your server or bartender what they are using. For example, Martini made with Noilly Prat vermouth isn’t vegan because Noilly Prat uses milk casein in production. So just have it extra dry…

A great place to check your booze is: http://www.barnivore.com

Tomek X


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