Is vegan alcohol a thing? The answer is complicated
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Is vegan alcohol a thing? Thi is one of the common questions from those looking to enjoy their favourite beer, wine, spirit, or any other alcoholic drink while pursuing a plant-based diet.
The answer is unfortunately complicated. As a vegan, you don’t have to give up all alcohol but you do need to be careful of certain alcoholic production techniques, and hidden ingredients that might not be so vegan-friendly.
Below, barman at Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, Melrick Harrison explains how you can find out if your favourite beverage is vegan or not vegan.
Q: What makes a wine vegan?
A: When wine is made, one of the processes used is a filtering and or a fining process. This process is there to remove any particles or impurities in wine that can negatively impact the flavour of wine before bottling. Fining wine means that there’s an agent that gets added to wines.
This pushes those impurities and particles toward the bottom of the barrel or tank, adding to sediment and murkiness that was already there. This is then removed at a later stage. However, it’s the agents used that will determine whether a wine is vegan or not.
Common fining agents used in non-vegan wines are gelatin (collagen taken from animal body parts), isinglass (fish), egg white (egg), casein (milk), arthropods (invertebrate animals), and others.
Vegan fining agents will include bentonite (a type of clay), limestone, silica (quartz sand), carbon (charcoal), and vegetable gelatin (peas or potatoes).
Q: What cocktail ingredients make a drink non-vegan?
A: There are quite a few to look out for. Worcestershire sauce is one of them. This is an ingredient that contains anchovies and fish sauce. This sauce is commonly used in Bloody Mary’s. Another one is egg white.
This is often used as a tasteless ingredient for texture, to bind flavours and it’s great for making foams. Of course, there’s also honey which is used as a sugar substitute. There are also dairy products such as milk and cream that are used in shakes, cocktails and some bars sometimes use clarified milk instead of egg white.
Not commonly known is the use of dehydrated meat. In the bartending world, this is called fat-washing (an infusion). It’s when you add something (bacon, droewors, biltong, or grease leftover from cooked meat) that contains a lot of oil to a spirit.
You then freeze it. The only thing that will freeze is the fat and it can be easily removed. This technique is used to add flavour and texture (mouthfeel) to the spirit.