About a year ago, I discovered that not all alcohol is vegan. I have never been a big drinker, so it didn’t startle me that I may have unknowingly been contributing to the various exploitive industries. All in the name of consuming alcohol. I mean, who would have thought? Though, I do enjoy a very occasional glass of wine and want to do so comfortably. I also like to educate myself about various topics and how they intertwine or directly relate to veganism. Friends and even strangers ask me about different industries in an effort to educate themselves. They do this often since I am their token vegan friend. I practice an open and non-judgmental take on explaining how-to-swallow realizations. This came in time after I discovered that people don’t like to be asked how they can love animals and eat them, too. You can imagine how a conversation like that would transpire. 

Though, I don’t mind taking the time to research random things like what makes some alcohol not vegan-friendly. I want to have all the right answers so I can help others learn and understand how to live more consciously. I truly believe that if more people realized what types of industries they were contributing with their dollar that they would be sickened by it. That’s why I start conversations about topics like this and help people learn and change their habits.  

Truthfully, I would have never just randomly googled, “Is alcohol vegan?” if I wasn’t consciously trying to avoid any and all animal by-products in my day to day life. It’s important to not be mad at your loved ones if they are seemingly in disbelief about what’s in their favorite go-to alcoholic beverage. No one is a bad person for being ignorant about something. Why not be the person to teach them? In a quest to learn about what could possibly make alcohol not vegan, I came across some interesting findings. 

There are a number of animal-derived ingredients used in the fining process of alcohol clarification and stabilization. Sometimes, animal by-products are used as added ingredients to the beverages themselves. Fining agents are not intended to remain in the final product, but there is no guarantee. This can be compared to buying a food product that was made in a facility that processes dairy and eggs. It’s probably not in your product, but it legally has to be listed on the wrapper for people with severe allergies who cannot even tolerate trace amounts of dairy, eggs, etc.

The broader definition of veganism encapsulates a lifestyle of abstaining from as much exploitation of animals as humanly possible. When I tell you some of the fining agents of non-vegan wine production, you will understand the inherent cruelty that is involved and why vegans and likely non-vegans would wish to abstain from such. 

The way that some non-vegan alcohol is processed is very similar to the more traditional and outdated way that still in the present day, some white sugar is processed through–bone char.

While many liquors contain dairy, some drinks like Campari contain cochineal extract. Cochineal extract, also known as carmine is a red food coloring derived from the crushed up bodies of pregnant female Dactylopius coccus. YUM!!

What exactly is fining and what does it use?

Fining is the process of clarifying wine or beer. Finings are substances added near the completion of the finished product. They improve the final beverage quality and may also serve to adjust the flavor or smell.

Some ingredients and finings frequently used:

  • Albumin: derived from eggs/dried blood
  • Casein: derived from milk
  • Lactose/ Lactic acid: derived from milk
  • Charcoal: sometimes derived from animal bone
  • Various colorings such as carmine, derived from insects
  • Gelatin: made from bones, skins, and tendons
  • Pepsin: sometimes derived from pigs
  • Chitin: derived from the shells of crabs and lobsters
  • Honey: derived from bees
  • Isinglass: derived from the swim bladders of fish

Side note: Wow, humans really do know how to make their money at the expense of exploiting any and all animals that they possibly can.

While beer often uses isinglass to gather yeast and make it sink to the bottom of the glass, and some ciders use gelatin, various types of alcohol are guilty of using animal by-products in their final product. Unfortunately, reading the label won’t help you determine if specific alcohol is vegan friendly, and regulations for the labeling of alcoholic beverages vary by vastly by country.

It’s also important to consider what type of glue is used to create the label on various types of alcohol. Glues can be derived from connective tissue, bones, skin, or casein.

There are many resources that help buyers determine which alcohol is safe to consume, and a particularly helpful website is called Barnivore.com. This website is run by two vegans and serves as a directory to help vegans consciously consume alcohol. The website is cataloged by beer, wine, and liquor, and can be filtered by the name of a certain brand or filtered by a list of drinks that are vegan and non-vegan. Check out barnivore.com for an extensive list of all the vegan must-haves you can be confident about serving to your guests at your next big event.

The Best Vegan Wines

  • Bellissima Prosecco
  • Blossom Hill
  • Cooper’s Hawk Vineyards
  • DAOU Vineyards
  • Frey Vineyards 
  • JUSTIN Wines 
  • Layer Cake Wines
  • Lumos Wine Company

The Best Inexpensive Vegan Beers

  • Budweiser and Bud Light (USA)
  • Coors and Coors Light (USA)
  • Miller Original and Genuine Draft (USA)
  • Lite beer from Miller (USA)
  • Heineken (Netherlands)
  • Beck’s (Germany)
  • Corona (Mexico)
  • Pacifico (Mexico)
  • Skol (Brazil)
  • Tsingtao (China)
  • Snow (China)
  • Harbin (China)

The Best Vegan Liquors

  • Bourbon (usually made in Kentucky)
  • Canadian Whisky
  • Gin
  • Irish Whiskey
  • Rum
  • Schnapps (Oh, God)
  • Scotch Whisky
  • Tennessee Whiskey
  • Tequila
  • Vodka

Whether you’ve decided to opt for a cash bar, open bar, or a beer and wine station, there are literally thousands of options to select that are vegan-friendly, and thus cruelty-free. 

Feel free to inform your guests that everything is vegan, including the alcohol! And when people question what it is that can possibly make alcohol not vegan, feel free to refer them to this article and take a moment to educate them on what makes alcohol not vegan. I’m sure they would love to know that the beer they drink is filtered with a fish’s bladder. Yum!