Is Gin Vegan? Gin, or as I should really say “Genever” – yes, that’s right. Before I even get into whether Gin is vegan, I should probably clear up that “Gin” is actually the shortened name for “Genever” – the drink’s proper name (a derivation from the Latin for juniper – because that is what Gin is made of). Gin – it may be firmly associated as the Gin of Great Britain (Gin & Tonic anyone), but it originated in the Netherlands. Franciscus Sylvius, a Dutch physician came up with the drink originally as a medicine during the 16th Century. It was then given to soldiers during the Dutch War of Independence and that is how we got the phrase “Dutch Courage”. According to Statista Gin is the fifth highest-selling liquor in the US – behind Vodka, Whiskey, Rum, and Tequila (in case you were wondering Vodka is the number one selling spirit – if you want to learn whether Vodka is vegan I covered it in my article here Is Vodka Vegan? Hidden Surprises To Know About in Vodka). Being partial to a G&T ever so often got me thinking, what is Gin, how is it made, and most importantly Is Gin Vegan? Time to find out and give you a breakdown of all the major Gin brands.
Is Gin Vegan?
As a general rule, most gins are vegan. The main non-vegan ingredient that can be found in gin is honey. There are a few gins that contain cochineal (crushed beetles) for color, ants, or have been filtered with non-vegan fining agents such as gelatin or isinglass but this is rare.
Spoiler alert – gin lovers rejoice – a rough and ready calculation of the vegan vs non-vegan gins on Barnivore show 95% of gins as vegan vs 5% as not vegan.
Is Gin Vegan – What is Gin?
Gin is a neutral alcoholic liquor made from fermenting and distilling wheat, barley, potatoes, or grapes. Sounds, like Vodka, right? The difference is that this base must then be flavored using juniper. Some gin manufacturers will flavor with other botanicals as well such as various herbs, spices, and plants, but the main flavor must be from juniper.
Juniper – It is the LAW
To even be called a “Gin” it must have its main flavor from juniper berries. It is the law. No seriously. Countries legally define what can and can not be a “Gin” and they all require Juniper. For example, in the US “Gin” is defined by the ATF as:
“(c) Class 3; gin. “Gin” is a product obtained by original distillation from mash, or by redistillation of distilled spirits, or by mixing neutral spirits, with or over juniper berries and other aromatics, or with or over extracts derived from infusions, percolations, or maceration of such materials, and includes mixtures of gin and neutral spirits. It shall derive its main characteristic flavor from juniper berries and be bottled at not less than 80° proof. Gin produced exclusively by original distillation or by redistillation may be further designated as “distilled”. “Dry gin” (London dry gin), “Geneva gin” (Hollands gin), and “Old Tom gin” (Tom gin) are types of gin known under such designations.”
This type of classification is also used similarly across the world. For example, in the EU Gin is defined by the EU Regulation on Spirit Drinks.
Is Gin Vegan – What is Juniper?
Junipers are coniferous trees and shrubs. They are evergreen plants with needle-like leaves and are responsible for producing Juniper Berries. Fun fact, Juniper Berries are not berries, but are “seed cones” – they just have unusually fleshy and merged scales that give them a berry-like appearance. It is these cones (or berries – seriously why do not they call them “Juniper Cones”) that are used as a spice for Gin.
Is Gin Vegan – Types of Gin
If you have ever looked at Gin Bottles in the food aisle you will notice some say funny things like “London Dry” to “Old Tom”. Like Whiskey these are the different styles of Gin. There are six main types of Gin:
- London Dry
- Contemporary Gin
- Navy Strength Gin
- Old Tom
The most popular and most made Gin is London Dry. Originating from London, this Gin is referred to as “Dry” because it lacks any added sweetness. Juniper is the main dominant flavor and any additional flavor must come from other botanicals. No sweetness is added to this Gin. If you order a Martini or a Gin & Tonic this is what you usually will get. London Dry gins will be around 40% ABV.
Main London Dry brands include Bombay Sapphire, Beefeater London Dry, Gordan’s, and Tanqueray.
Like London Dry, Plymouth Gin was originally exclusively made in Plymouth England, but now falls under the London Dry category. Its main distinguishing feature is that it has a softer juniper taste than other London Dry gins.
Contemporary Gins refer to Gins made globally which do not use a neutral base but still include juniper. What does this mean? It just means these gin manufacturers can use rye, barley, or other bases in addition to grain-neutral spirits to produce more unique flavors. Flavors for these types of gin can be anything – pistachio, peppermint, coffee, you name it. Under this category, I also include Sloe Gin which is Gin flavored with Sloe Berries from the Blackthorn Bush.
Navy Strength Gin
This is just a strong version of London Dry Gin. You are looking at around 50 to 60% ABV. The taste is like London Dry, but with more of a kick.
Old Tom Gin
Old Tom Gin is the opposite of London Dry. This type of Gin is sweetened and can also be barrel-aged. This type of gin is typically sweeter.
Genever tends to be based on the original Dutch recipe for gin. It is made with hops and a non-neutral spirit base (usual malt with either barley, rye, wheat, and/or corn). It is the most similar in taste to a “moonshine” or white whiskey but with a juniper flavor.
Is Gin Vegan – How is Gin Made?
The distillation for Gin and Vodka is very similar. I covered in detail the Vodka distillation process in my article Is Vodka Vegan? Hidden Surprises To Know About in Vodka and Is Alcohol Vegan? How to Know the Truth.
Here is a summary. Gin manufacturing is essentially a three-stage process.
- The first stage will be the fermentation of water, malt, and grain mixed with yeast to produce an ethanol alcohol base which is very similar to Vodka.
- In stage two, the fermented base is distilled by being heated and then cooled to concentrate and create ethanol. This creates higher ABV alcohols. This is essentially Vodka.
- Stage three is where “Gin” becomes Gin. In this stage, the concentrated base undergoes what is known as re-distillation – which just means that the alcohol is distilled again, but this time Juniper berries are added as well as potentially other botanicals to create the manufacturers’ unique Gin.
Why is Gin Not Vegan?
As you can see from the above the manufacturing process for Gin does not create any vegan concerns. But what can make gin not vegan?
Most gins are vegan but the main reason why some gins are not vegan is the presence of honey. Sometimes this is easy to spot as honey is in the title such as Anno Orange & Honey Gin and Warner’s Harrington Honeybee Gin, but a lot of the time it is not easy to spot.
Cochineal is a much rarer non-vegan ingredient to find in gin. Cochineal is basically crushed beetles that give red-colored gin its color. Cochineal can be referred to by various names such as carmine, E120, and Crimson Lake. Rest assured that most pink gins do not contain cochineal to give the pink color (see below).
Non-Vegan Fining Agents
This is also much rarer, but a few gins are filtered with non-vegan fining agents such as gelatin or isinglass. If you want to read more about non-vegan fining agents, you can – Why is Wine Not Vegan – How to Know the Truth? However, fining agents are not commonly used in liquor because the nature of distillation (heating and cooling) means they are often not needed.
This is another rare exception but gin can contain beeswax as a “botanical” flavoring like Holyrood Holyxxxx Gin. Another example is Herno Juniper Cask Gin which does not contain any beeswax nor any other non-vegan ingredients but the cap is sealed with beeswax.
I can’t believe I am writing about Ants…again. I first covered the presence of ants in liquor in my article Is Liquor Vegan? How to Actually Pick a Vegan Liquor and it is time to talk about them again. I should start with the fact that the presence of ants in gin is super rare. In fact, it only applies to one gin brand – Anty Gin – which contains the essence of 62 wood ants.
For ease of reference, I have summarized the main non-vegan ingredients to watch out for as well as some non-vegan gin brands (this is not a definitive list – there will be more non-vegan gins out there).
|Non-Vegan Gins that Contain Honey||Non-Vegan Gins that Contain Cochineal||Non-Vegan Gins that Contain Beeswax||Non-Vegan Gins that use Fining Agents||Non-Vegan Gins that Contain Ants|
|Herno Old Tom Gin||Nosferatu Blood Orange Gin||Holyrood Holyxxxx Gin||Greenhook Beach Plum Gin (uses Gelatin)||Anty Gin|
|Warner’s Harrington Honeybee Gin||Herno Juniper Cask Gink (cap sealed with Beeswax)||Whitley Neill Rhubarb & Ginger Gin (uses Isinglass)|
|Tarquin’s British Blackberry Gin|
|Absintherie Des Cantons Old Major Tom Gin|
|Audemus Spirits Pink Pepper Gin|
|Silent Pool Gin|
|Anno Orange & Honey Gin|
|Orkney Johannistag Navy Strenght Old Tom Gin|
|Anther Anther X Taxi Gin|
|Archie Rose Distiller’s Strength Gin|
Is Gin Vegan – Are the Big Gin Brands Vegan?
I covered the most common non-vegan gin exceptions above, but what about the main go-to Gin brands? I am talking about the Gordon’s, the Hendrick’s, Bombay Sapphire, the Tanqueray’s, and the Beefeater’s of the world. Are they vegan?
Is Gordon’s Gin Vegan?
Looking at Barnivore Gordon’s has confirmed that they do not use animal by-products in the production of their Gin. They are, however, not certified vegan.
Is Hendrick’s Gin Vegan?
This one is easy. Hendrick’s proudly boasts that all their gins are vegan on their website.
Is Bombay Sapphire Gin Vegan?
Bombay Sapphire gin is vegan.
Is Tanqueray Gin Vegan?
This is Tanqueray gins latest response (August 2021) to Barnivore reading the vegan status of their gins:
“We currently do not test our products to verify that they are Vegan, and therefore, cannot make any claims about its Vegan status. We also are unable to verify if the ingredients used are vegan, as the ingredients of our products are proprietary.”
The Tanqueray Gin recipe is a closely guarded secret. It is known they use these four botanicals – juniper, coriander, angelica root, and licorice but that is all we know. In conclusion, I cannot confirm that Tanqueray gin is vegan.
Is Beefeater Gin Vegan?
Despite the name “Beefeater” which refers to a guard in the Tower of London, Beefeater Gin is vegan.
In my research, I noticed that Beefeater does a Blood Orange Gin and a Pink Gin.
- Blood orange gin can sometimes contain cochineal to give the color, so I double-checked the ingredients. Fear not, Beefeater Blood Orange Gin is colored with E129 which is vegan (it is E120 you must watch out for which is another name for cochineal aka crushed beetles).
- Beefeater’s pink gin is colored with Allura red. Allura red is another name for E129. Making this Pink Gin vegan.
Is Sipsmith Gin Vegan?
Sipsmith gin is vegan and they proudly boast about it on their website.
Is Ginebra San Miguel
Ginebra San Miguel is the bestselling brand of Gin in the world. A Dutch-style Geneve Gin is made with Sugarcane in the Philippines, but is it vegan? I could not find out. There is a lack of anything about whether Ginebra San Miguel is vegan or not. In a bid to find out, I have reached out to Ginebra San Miguel to find out. I will update you when I get an answer.
Is Pink Gin Vegan?
Pink Gin is so Instagram-worthy with its beautiful light pink hue. It may make a great Instagram photo, but is it vegan?
The main question with regards to pink gin is “does it contain cochineal” to give it a pink color? Most pink gins are vegan and do not contain cochineal for color. Instead, they are colored pink with red berries like strawberries and raspberries or artificial colors like E129 just like Beefeater pink gin.
|Vegan Pink Gins||Non-Vegan Pink Gins|
|Settlers Pink Gin||Stirling Pink Gin*|
|WKD Pink Gin|
|Stockholm Branneri Pink Gin|
|Gordon’s Pink Distilled Gin|
|Anno Berry Pink Gin|
|The Bitter Truth Pink Gin|
|Whitley Neill Pink Grapefruit Gin|
|Brass Lion Pahit Pink Gin|
|Tappers Tickled Pink Gin by Simon Rimmer|
*It is worth noting that Stirling pink gin is not vegan whilst the rest of their gins are. I can’t seem to find out why the Stirling pink gins are not vegan.
Is Tonic Vegan?
G & T anyone? We all know that tonic water is the Bonnie to Gin’s Clyde. But is Tonic water vegan? Tonic water is basically sweetened carbonated water which contains quinine. Quinine comes from the bark of the cinchona tree and is vegan.
Most tonics are vegan. However, one popular tonic water is not vegan – Schweppes Indian Tonic Water. Coca-Cola, who owns Schweppes in the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand, has the following statement on its website:
“The vast majority of our drinks, including Coca‑Cola, are suitable for vegetarians and vegans as they do not contain any animal derivatives.
The following drinks are not free from animal derivatives and therefore may be unsuitable for vegetarians and vegans.
- Schweppes Indian Tonic Water
If you want to read more about what Coca-Cola drinks are vegan and which are not, then check out the post I wrote on it – Is Coca-Cola Vegan? Secrets to Know About Coca-Cola Drinks.
Is Gin Vegan – The Final Sip
Gin – it is basically flavored Vodka but flavored with one unique thing…juniper berries (which are not actually berries, but cones). Whilst the base for Vodka and Gin are the same that is pretty much where the two stop. The diversity of botanicals, herbs, and spices that can be added to Gin to give it its rich and diverse flavor profiles goes above and beyond anything Vodka does. It is like saying all red wine is the same because they are made the same – it just isn’t true. The good news is that, like Vodka, most Gins are vegan-friendly. You just have to watch out mainly for honey, beetles used for coloring, beeswax, and in one instance ants…yes, ants. There is so much more to Gin than a good ol’ G&T. My next treat to me is going to be an Old Tom style Gin – sounds terrific – how about you?
- You can double-check the vegan status of gins in the Barnivore link in the references below.
…now you know.
Beverage makers may change ingredients and/or manufacturing processes. Always double-check ingredients before purchasing any beverages.
Please Drink Responsibly.
Like What You Are Reading
Want to learn more? Do you also want to know if your favorite Champagne is vegan? Or how about just what spirits are not vegan (yes, some spirits and liquors are not vegan)? What about your favorite Vodka – Is Vodka Vegan? Time to find out. Check out some of my other articles below where I answer all of these questions and more:
- Is Champagne Vegan? Revealing the Truth Behind the Bubbles
- Is Liquor Vegan? How to Actually Pick Vegan Liquor
- Is Vodka Vegan? Hidden Surprises to Know About in Vodka
- Is Alcohol Vegan? Is Alcohol Vegan? How to Know the Truth
- Is Cider Vegan? How to Know the Pressing Truth
- Is Hard Seltzer Vegan? How to Really Tell
- 10 Vegan Wines at Trader Joe’s You Need to Try
- Is Ginger Ale Vegan? Everything You Need to Know
Vegan and non-vegan gins on Barnivore (as at 1 January 2022)