With more and more dining options opening up for those enjoying a vegan lifestyle, which alcoholic drinks are acceptable can still be a little confusing.

Thankfully, we decided to set out to find out once and for all whether whisky, beer, gin and other spirits are actually vegan.

Beer and Cider

Traditionally, beer and cider, with their very basic ingredients, would seem to be on the list, however, many large scale (and indeed craft) breweries and cider makers still use of isinglass to filter their beers.

A scientist grabs a hand full of isinglass. Picture: Shutterstock

The substance, which is obtained from the dried swim bladders of fish, is used for clarification (or fining) of some beers, ciders and wines.

However, in recent times many of the big players have continued to make their products more accessible to everyone, with Guinness being the latest of which to announce that it want be using Isinglass going forward making it now available for vegans to drink.

Though beer brands like Budweiser and Bud Light, Miller Original and Genuine Draft (USA), Heineken (Netherlands), Beck’s (Germany) and Corona (Mexico) are considered to be vegan it’s worth checking on the producer’s website to be sure.

Best of all, according to the Barnivore vegan beer guide– which is an excellent vegan drinks reference – Scottish favourite Tennent’s is indeed vegan.

Even better, Barr’s have confirmed that Scotland’s unofficial national drink Irn-Bru, is that is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

The same goes for cider, which uses similar processing.

Wine

Wine suffers from the same problem as beer and cider and in fact, has fewer vegan options available when compared to the other categories.

Picture: BodegaSpanishwine

Fortunately, online wine club, Winebuyers, state that many vineyards and producers have “adapted their winemaking process” to offer a greater choice in wines for those choosing a plant-based lifestyle.

They said: “Vegan wines replace animal-based finers with clay and vegetable-based products such as pea protein. Every action or inaction in the winemaking process has a direct result, however, the huge number of variables involved means it’s not fair to say if they taste better or worse. There are many expensive wines which haven’t been fined or filtered which are also vegan.

“Wine, like most alcohol, doesn’t require a detailed list of ingredients so it’s not always easy to tell vegan wines apart. With the growing interest in vegan wines, many winemakers now actively label their wines as vegan, however, some don’t. Fortunately, we have a vegan label on Winebuyers to identify every vegan-friendly wine – even if it’s not visible on the bottle. Good news for all the vegans out there.”

Spirits

Are gin, whisky, rum and vodka vegan?

sherry cask whiskies

Picture: Shutterstock

Dominika Piasecka, spokeswoman for The Vegan Society, said: “Fortunately, virtually every brand of hard liquor—bourbon, whisky, vodka, gin, and rum—is vegan.

“Nearly all distilled spirits are vegan except for cream-based liqueurs and products that mention honey on the label.”

Thankfully, the Vegan Society has confirmed that most spirits use animal-free processing meaning most of them are vegan.

However, the exceptions are certain whiskies, including liqueurs, gins and rums contain honey meaning they are excluded from a plant-based diet.

Campari is another to watch out for as it contains cochineal, so cocktails can contain ingredients that aren’t acceptable, so be careful when reading that menu.

About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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