When I began my vegan journey, I was surprised to learn that not all alcoholic beverages are vegan. I figured that I could, at least, have a drink in just about any restaurant if I were out with friends. Weren’t wine, beer and other spirits made with ingredients from Mother Nature such as grapes, grains, potatoes, barley, hops, etc? Boy, was I wrong!! Talk about putting a crimp in my social life!!!
I discovered the truth of the matter in the wonderful cookbook “The Vegan Table” by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau which I highly recommend!! Ms. Goudreau has a section in the book entitled “Bladders In My Booze?” Sexy, right? Here is what I learned in a nutshell: some alcoholic beverages are filtered using animal products. Examples include gelatin (the boiled bones and tissue of slaughterhouse animals), isinglass (obtained from the swim bladders of fish), chitosan (derived from the exoskeleton of crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp), casein (from cow’s milk), and egg albumen (from chickens). It is possible (but not typical) that very small amounts of these animal products end up in the finished product.
According to Ms. Goudreau, here is a general guideline to follow for beer and wine:
1. Many traditional British beers, including Guinness, use animal products.
2. German purity laws forbid the use of ingredients other than water, grain (barley or wheat), hops, and yeast. So, generally, German beers are vegan. The same goes for Belgian beers.
3. Generally, animal products are not used to make beer in the United States, except for a few brewers who adhere to traditional British (or cask-treated) processes.
4. All kosher wines are vegan.
5. Some wine makers (particularly small, artisanal ones) boast on the label that their wine is unfiltered. This means it’s vegan.
6. Not all organic wines are vegan.
An excellent website to consult about which alcoholic beverages are vegan or non-vegan is Barnivore. I perused this website and was pleased to find out, from its extensive list, that the following spirits are vegan:
Absolut Vodka, Grey Goose Vodka, Ketel One Vodka, Rain Organic Vodka, Stolichnaya Vodka, Van Gogh Imports, Svedka, Skyy Vodka, Amaretto, Bacardi, Beefeater Gin, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Canadian Club Whiskey, Don Julio Tequila, Frangelico, Jack Daniels, Jim Bean, Seagram’s Gin, Limoncello and Maker’s Mark Bourbon (among many others).
Barnivore also lists other alcoholic beverages including wine and beer. For the record, I have been to New York City’s “Blossom” and “V-Note” restaurants many times, and they have an excellent selection of vegan wine and beer. Also note that my favorite vegan wines come from the brand “Frey.” “Frey” wines are vegan, organic, non-GMO, yeast-free and sulfite-free.