Hey, hey, hey greenies! We are so excited to share this post with you today because today, we are talking about drinking. That’s right — booze in all of its glory. So here’s a question for you: as an environmentalist and/or vegetarian and/or green living ambassador, are you still allowed to drink your favorite adult beverages? Is alcohol in fact vegetarian and vegan-friendly?
Red, Red Wine…
Winemakers use fining agents to purify their wine, giving it a clear, silky texture and identifiable flavor. The fining agents used to produce wine are similar to those used in the production of most beer. Common agents include casein, a milk protein, album or egg whites, gelatin, an animal protein, and isinglass, a protein extracted from the bladders of different fish species. The message to be learned is that you cannot and should not assume that are drinks are safe!
Interestingly, winemakers are not required by law to disclose which fining agents (animal byproducts) may be present in their wine. Fortunately, many wine producers are now using clay-based fining agents to take the place of the more traditional animal-based fining agents. Examples include bentonite and activated charcoal, replacing the gelatin, casein and other processing aids that have been used for centuries. FINALLY, a vegetarian- and vegan-friendly way to make the good stuff.
For an extensive list of vegetarian and vegan wines, visit VegNews.
One Tequila, Two Tequila…
Mr. GGC was very relieved to discover that his favorite adult beverage is typically SAFE and vegetarian/vegan-friendly. Tequila is produced from the beautiful blue agave plant. The plant is harvested and cooked through an intricate process using giant mills and convection ovens. Typically prior to bottling, the tequila is filtered using a charcoal agent. But before you decide to run to the nearest Mexican restaurant for taco Tuesday and margaritas, consider this…
…though the alcohol itself is safe, sometimes the mixers are not. For instance, I bet you didn’t know that some orange juice brands contain fish oils including tilapia, sardine and anchovy. Yummmmm? I don’t know about you, but I prefer my tequila sunrise to be fish-free.
Stay Thirsty My Friends…
Most beer you consume is filtered to remove the yeast particles used to produce the alcohol. Nowadays, the majority of beers you drink are filtered mechanically using fine mesh sheets. Some beers however use animal byproducts to filter out the spent yeast. The most common byproduct is isinglass, made from the swim bladder of sturgeons. This technique is most commonly used in cask aged beers , which is a traditional style of beer making most commonly associated with British breweries.
Unfortunately most breweries are silent on whether or not they use animal by products, but you should steer clear of British cask ales and to be safe, avoid cask ales in general. If you want to be completely safe, try unfiltered beers. They are known for their signature cloudy amber color and yeasty flavor.
Vegetarian Safe Brewers Include: Bartleby’s Brewery, Samuel Smith, Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, Marble Brewery, Black Isle Brewery, Little Valley Brewery, Pitfield Brewery, Black Sheep Brewery, Epic Brewing Company, Broken Compass Brewing Company
The Clear Stuff…
Pure vodka drinks are 100% vegetarian safe. SCORE! Vodka in its traditional form is made from potatoes and therefore comes out completely clear. This means there is no need for any filtering agents like isinglass. We can’t say for sure that all of the flavored or colored vodka is vegetarian but if it is clear and flavorless, it is safe. This makes vodka the number one choice for vegetarians and vegans.
Remember though, just because your vodka is vegetarian does not mean that your mixer is. Many sodas and juices contain animal byproducts. Some filtering uses range from filtering to coloring using BUGS (yes, BUGS). So keep it vegetarian and classy by drinking a vodka martini with a twist of lemon.
Getting’ Ginny With It…
Like its clear cousin vodka, pure traditional distilled gin is 100% safe for vegetarians. Gin is made by redistilling pure ethanol and flavoring it with juniper berries, creating its traditional herbaceous flavor. Much like the craft beer revolution, spirit distillers are pushing the boundaries with flavors. So we can’t say that all brands of gin are 100% vegetarian. You may find a local distiller experimenting with crazy ingredients. So if it sounds funny, side step it for the oldie but goodie, gin and tonic.
Okay so we are not going to get into looking at the various types of whiskey (bourbon vs. scotch vs. Tennessee vs. insert whatever derivative you want). They all go through the same basic process. What we are most concerned about is how the amber color is achieved. All whiskeys are barrel aged but some, like Scotch Whiskey, are aged in wine barrels. And since wine often contains animal byproducts that leech into the barrel, then whiskey “contains” animal byproducts.
What it comes down to is how strict of a vegetarian you are. We aren’t whiskey drinkers (come here tequila) so giving up whiskey is no problem. If you’re a Scotch Whiskey lover, we give you a pass on this one.
Rum you say?
Just like whisky, rum is aged in wooden barrels. In a display of how interconnected the world of booze is, rum is aged in bourbon barrels for at least 1 year. 100% straight rum is a safe bet for vegetarians as it was aged in either bourbon barrels or stainless steel, neither of which contain trace amounts of animal byproducts.
BUT, rum may also be the most mixed alcohol and just like vodka and tequila, what you mix it with may contain animal byproducts. You’re rum and coke probably contains animal byproducts but a shot of rum does not.
So there you have it – you can still enjoy that cocktail and enjoy happy hour with your friends. Just remember, drink responsibly.
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