It’s a tricky one but how can you be sure that the drink or cocktail you’ve ordered is vegan? For those vegans amongst us it’s a pretty important question and there isn’t a huge amount of information available to help guide our choices. Products are not clearly labelled and there is little knowledge in the bar trade. It doesn’t help that product producers don’t have to declare ingredients by law for alcohol content that is higher than 1.2%.
So, what alcoholic drinks and mixers on the shelf or behind the bar contain animal derived products, either in the drink itself or in the process used to make the drink? While most of the big lager brands are vegan it’s not the same for real ale, ciders and many white wines, rose and sparkling wines. This is largely because Isinglass, otherwise known as fish swimbladder, is still widely used to clarify the product. Some companies will allow the wines to clarify naturally but the process is long which is why using animal derivates are often used as it’s an efficient way to clear any impurities. And even in the production of red wine egg whites and milk proteins are sometimes used to remove any bitter flavours. Also watch out for some fortified wines including port and sherry which may contain gelatine.
The good news is that the retail sector is now becoming much better at flagging up alcohol products that are vegan, most notably on own-brand wines. If the product carries the Vegan Society’s logo you can be sure that it’s made to specific standards and is cruelty-free. The Co-op, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco all sell own label vegan wine or there’s www.veganwineonline.co.uk
When it comes to spirits the picture is a lot brighter. Most spirits are vegan except the obvious ones that use dairy in the making such as Baileys and Advocaat. And most standard mixers are vegan such as Coca-Cola and Schweppes. Similarly, new products coming onto the market such as Jeffrey’s Tonic Syrups are conscious of the importance of being vegan-friendly both from an ingredient’s perspective as well as in the production.
But be wary of some of our favourite cocktails such as a Bloody Mary made with Worcester Sauce as it contains anchovies. And many freshly made cocktails will contain dairy but these will be listed in the ingredients so easy ones to spot. Try this new take on the popular Negroni
2 measures gin - Gordon's works well
2 measures Jeffrey's Not So Plain Tonic Syrup
2 measures Aperol (widely available from the supermarket)
A squeeze of lemon
A slice of lemon
The bitterness of quinine in a tonic syrup works brilliantly in a Negroni, but Jeffrey's Not So Plain tonic syrup makes this extra special.