Well, it did to me.
I’ve recently discovered there’s actually tonnes of things flying around that are not even the slightest bit vegan (or even vegetarian) friendly that would definitely take you by surprise. Interestingly, I found out that booze is often a difficulty for the vegan folk.
On initial thought, it’s difficult to ponder how rum might have animal produce in. But after a bit of extra research, I’ve discovered that in actual fact, alcoholic drinks are actually rarely vegan.
As I delved into the deep dark depths of the internet, I found myself pretty quickly in a minefield of misinformation and a fair few confused posts lacking a strict understanding of what is and what isn’t vegan-friendly.
Let’s clear a few things up. By UK law, any alcoholic drink over 1.2% alcohol by volume does not need a list of ingredients on the bottle. That makes it pretty difficult to decipher whether or not your favourite gin is vegan or not. Or for that matter, whatever the heck else is in there.
There’s 2 main ways alcoholic drinks can contain animal products. Firstly through actually containing animal products such as honey as an ingredient. This is the most obvious, a natural sweetener that’s often included in many flavour profiles.
Or secondly, and the most surprising, is the animal products used throughout the production process. Before bottling, spirits are filtered, but what they are filtered through might come as a shock to you. More often than not a substance called ‘isinglass’ is used to catch impurities and leave a refined spirit.
Isinglass is made from fish bladders. Sometimes other filtering processes use gelatine, albumen (egg whites), sea shells and an array of other animal products to purify the alcohol.
Everything from wine to beer and rum to vodka all often use animal products. Even though you think wine might be vegan, it just comes from grapes, right?!
To get clarified wines the drink goes through a ‘fining’ process and the (pretty gross) inglass is typically used. It’s not a completely necessary process, you can wait for wine to naturally clear but that takes about a month and clearly we’re all far too impatient for that aren’t we? Especially when it comes to wine.
Beer comes in a wonderful array of types from ale to lager to pale ale each with different processes. The general rule of thumb is to steer clear of craft or draft real ales, however as more of the world turns vegan more and more companies are embracing plant-based brewing options. Even Guinness recently opted for the vegan way of life.
A considerable amount of ciders unfortunately have an added sprinkling of gelatine so most aren’t vegan or veggie friendly so it’s worth checking all the labels.
Where to get Vegan Booze
Instead of spending 6 hours looking at labels in Tesco, what you could do is head down to our top picks for Vegan Booze.
Alvarium & Wolf at the Door both serve up an array of vegan drinks to keep you going plant-based throughout this notoriously boozy season!
Firstly to Alvarium, where around 90% of the drinks menu is vegan. With an entire cocktail menu complete with 8 classic cocktails transformed vegan. That includes the classic Bloody Mary which due to Worcestershire sauce isn’t normally vegan. Alvarium have instead opted for Hendersons relish, a spicy and fruity condiment that is completely vegan and a perfect alternative to Worcestershire sauce.
There’s also Clover Club which is traditionally made with egg white to give the famous foam, which has been swapped out for none other than chickpea juice, aquafaba.
For their bespoke cocktail menu, there’s 14 cocktails to choose from and a guaranteed perfect tipple for everyone. They’ve also got 2 different Prosecco’s and plenty of wine options in every colour.
Next straight to Wolf at the Door, known for their impressive natural and organic wines list. You may assume that natural wine equals vegan. Again, finding myself stuck in a deep hole on the internet I discovered that that isn’t always the case.
However, it is more likely going to be that natural wine is vegan. This is simply due to that impatience I was talking about earlier. Natural wine is difficult to define and lacks a strict set of T&Cs, however the general rule of thumb is that no chemicals are added throughout the process including fertilizers or pesticides for example.
Natural wine therefore is left to its own devices to filter and therefore no fishy guts are used and the winemakers patiently wait for the wine to do its thing.
Here lies a problem though. Fish are natural things that exist in the earth so it is worth checking the strict definition each brand uses of ‘natural’ as it will differ bottle to bottle.
I recommend getting down to Wolf at the Door and asking the lovely folk behind their bar. Their wine list changes very regularly but there is usually a couple of options for vegans to chose from including an array of spirits.
On offer currently is Splash a sparkling vintage white wine. There’s also a Rouge and Blanc Sec from Bergerac, both 2017 and made from a mixture of grapes to give a deeper flavour.
I’m not vegan myself but I do agree the world should be making a more considered effort to reducing how much animal produce we consume. What I have discovered is how difficult it can be to figure out what is and what isn’t vegan friendly – so credit to those people who have wholeheartedly committed to this cause.
It’s a lot more difficult than I once thought to go out for a bev with your pals.