Vegan Alcohol: The Animal-Friendly Guide to Beer, Wine, and Spirits

Veganism is becoming more and more popular. Many new to the lifestyle are still figuring out how to adapt their pre-vegan lifestyles to more animal-friendly practices. 

Although the options for a vegan diet and lifestyle are many, new vegans may still have questions, like what types of alcoholic drinks are considered vegan? 

Veganism 101

If you've been living under a  block of tofu  for the past 10 years, you'll know that a vegan diet is plant-based. It doesn't involve eating anything from an animal, like meat, eggs, dairy, and honey. 

Vegans also don't buy beauty or cleaning products, and clothing tested on animals or contain animal derivatives. Are you wondering how this works with alcohol? Let's explore vegan alcohol. 

Is alcohol vegan?

Wine is made from grapes. Beer and liquors are made from grains. This makes it sound simple, and mostly it is. Unfortunately, some types of alcohol contain animal products, and others are processed using animal products. 

To make it more challenging, manufacturers are not typically required to specify whether a drink is vegan or not. 

How to tell if that Mojito has 'no meato' in it 

Most alcoholic drinks are vegan, but not all. Some manufacturers use non-vegan ingredients to improve flavor, and sometimes non-vegan fining agents are used to filter away impurities and improve clarity, aroma, and flavor. Here are some examples:

Non-vegan fining agents:

  • Isinglass - Derived from fish bladders, this is a popular fining agent.
  • Gelatin- Also used as a fining agent, gelatin is derived from animals' skin, bones, and cartilage.
  • Chitin- A by-product of insects or shellfish. There is a vegan version that is available.
  • Casein, lactose, and whey - These are milk by-products that are sometimes used as fining agents.
  • Eggs - The white protein part of eggs (albumin) can sometimes be found as a fining agent in alcohol products such as wine. You may even find eggs as an ingredient in some cocktails.

Non-vegan ingredients used in alcohol:

  • Milk and cream - This is occasionally added to beer and liqueurs to provide a rich and creamy flavor. 
  • Honey - Used as a sweetener in some cocktails or alcoholic beverages, honey is one of the main ingredients used to make mead.
  • Carmine and cochineal - Made from an insect called cochineal, carmine is a red dye derived from it and used to color alcoholic beverages.

Does a vegan get drunk faster?

Studies have revealed that  diet plays a role  in how quickly a person gets drunk, and not eating animal products could be the key. Although these studies are not conclusive, there are some fascinating theories why a vegan could become intoxicated faster than a non-vegan drinker. 

So grab yourice ball maker, fill a glass with a tasty cocktail and sip your way through some of the following reasons a vegan may get plastered faster!

#1. Eating less processed food and sugar can lower alcohol tolerance 

Vegans change their diet for various reasons, including overall health. By cutting back or removing processed foods and adopting a healthier diet, the body becomes accustomed to only ingesting healthy substances. 

Since alcohol is not that healthy and usually contains a lot of sugar, drinking it could affect healthy vegans more than people who don't eat a healthy diet. 

#2. Lower weight lowers tolerance

Studies have shown  that weight and alcohol tolerance is significantly linked. In most cases, a smaller person won't be able to handle their booze as well as someone heavier. Healthy vegans are  more likely to have lower weights.

#3. Lower alcohol tolerance can happen with quicker digestion

We all know we shouldn't drink on an empty stomach! Since vegans tend to digest food quicker than meat-eaters (meat just takes longer to digest,) vegans are likely to have less food in their system when they drink, making them get drunk quicker.

Although this is not necessarily a "vegan" situation (since meat eaters can also have an empty stomach), it does mean that a vegan may have less food in their stomach at any given time.

What alcohol is vegan?

The list of vegan drinks is long! Most hard liquors are considered vegan, and most beer and wine are also okay. However, if you're a vegan and want to be sure, keep these guidelines in mind:

Vegan beer anyone?

Is beer vegan? Beer is made with mainly four ingredients. Water, grains like barley or wheat, hops, and yeast. These ingredients are all considered vegan (although some vegans don't eat yeast.)

However, some breweries add non-vegan ingredients for color and flavor. An authentic vegan beer does not contain any animal or insect products during the brewing process.

To avoid this, stick to some of the commercial vegan beer brands like:

  • Budweiser and Bud Light
  • Coors and Coors Light
  • Corona Extra and Corona Light
  • Michelob Ultra
  • Miller Genuine Draft and Miller High Life
  • Heineken
  • Pabst Blue Ribbon
  • Guinness Draught and Guinness Original XX

Is wine vegan?

Wine comes from crushed and fermented grapes. During the fermentation process, manufacturers may add fining agents to help remove unwanted substances. This is typically from bitter plant compounds called tannins.

However, not all wineries implement these vegan wine practices and instead use animal products to help with the fining process. If the wineries use animal-based fining agents, the wine is not vegan.

Here are few brands that are 100% vegan:

  • Bellissima Prosecco
  • Cycles Gladiator
  • Frey Vineyards
  • Lumos Wines
  • Red Truck Wines
  • The Vegan Vine

Since the rise of veganism, wineries that employ vegan processing methods have begun to label their wine as vegan.

Vegan spirits

Making beer and wine is entirely different from how spirits like vodka or rum are made. Although all types of alcohol are fermented, manufacturers also distill spirits.

There are two main types of spirits, flavored and unflavored. The unflavored types are almost always vegan. Flavored brands are also usually vegan but are more likely to contain animal products.

Here are some examples of liquors that are typically vegan in their natural state:

  • Brandy
  • Gin
  • Tequila
  • Rum
  • Vodka
  • Whiskey

However, just like with wine and beer, each manufacturer has unique processing procedures. Before trusting a brand, do your research.

Tips on how to find out if your favorite drink is vegan

Being vegan is much easier than it was a few decades ago. Many new food items cater to a vegan diet, and alcohol is quickly catching up. However, finding vegan alcohol isn't always easy. Labeling is usually not mandatory for ingredients. So how can you find which ones are vegan?

Here are 6 tips for identifying vegan alcohol:

#1. Go to the source

Get information from the manufacturer. This is the most direct connection to accurate information regarding your vegan alcohol purchase.

#2. Check for vegan symbols on the labels

More and more companies are beginning to label their products as being vegan-friendly. Become familiar with the vegan symbols so you can look out for them. 

#3. Check for listed allergens 

Allergens like milk, eggs, fish, and shellfish are listed on food labels in the U.S. However, according to regulations under the Federal Alcohol Administration Act, it is not mandatory to disclose allergens on alcohol labels. 

It is still worth checking, though, since some imported brands will list allergens, and many allergens are non-vegan ingredients.

#4. Watch out for carmine 

U.S. manufacturers label products that contain carmine because it is derived from insects. Look out for labels that include the phrases "contains carmine" or "contains cochineal."

#5. Check online sources

Many sites will help vegans find vegan products, including alcohol!

Here are some useful sites you could try:

Get your vegan drink on!

Just because you're vegan doesn't mean you can't party it up now and again. As the world incorporates more and more vegan options, a shot, a pint, and a glass are just as available as vegan burgers and tofu steaks

There are many vegan cocktails and vegetarian drink choices. To figure out which ones you can drink, read labels, contact manufacturers, and do your research online. In no time, you'll be enjoying your favorite alcoholic beverage right along with everyone else.