Is Liquor Vegan? How To Actually Pick Vegan Liquor

Is Liquor Vegan? Are you a whiskey person, or perhaps you just drink Tequila? No? Then are you a discerning Gin drinker or maybe you just like some Havana Rum (the proper Cuban stuff)? How about some Moutai – yes, Chinese Moutai or Maotai is the most popular drink in the World and one you have probably never heard of (if you are interested, it is made from fermented Sorghum, which probably doesn’t help you understand what it is – but apparently it tastes like a “…very rough vodka, followed by soy sauce notes”). Or are you just like me – you like liquor but barely know enough to really understand what you are drinking?

For this piece, I decided to divide it into the main types of liquor: Vodka, Tequila, Brandy, Gin, Whiskey, and Rum (I won’t do Moutai – since I only learned about it today). Most importantly I will answer that all-important question: Is Liquor Vegan?

Is Liquor Vegan?

As a general rule, most liquors are vegan. This is because of the absence of fining agents in the production process of liquors. Fining agents are often not vegan – therefore, their absence results in most liquors being vegan. There are a few non-vegan ingredients to watch out for in liquors. These non-vegan ingredients are honey, dairy in cream liquors, cochineal extract, and dairy in creamy vodka flavors.

A rough and ready calculation of the percentage of vegan vs non-vegan liquors on Barnivore shows the following:

Liquor% Not Vegan% Vegan

If you want to learn a bit more in-depth about the distillation and the liquor manufacturing process I cover it in my piece here: Is Alcohol Vegan? How To Know The Truth.

What is Liquor?

If you search the meaning of Liquor online Wikipedia gives you the following answer: “an alcoholic drink produced by distillation of grains, fruits, or vegetables that have already gone through alcoholic fermentation”.

The key thing to know about liquor is that fermentation can only produce so much alcoholic content (usually, at the most around 18% ABV). This is because the stronger the alcoholic content of the fermented mixture, the more it starts to stop the fermentation process and kills off the yeast used.

This means the only way to get strong ABV liquors is to evaporate the alcohol from the water and create a concentration of it – aka liquor. During this process, you evaporate certain flavor molecules and profiles to create unique drinks which is not possible at just the fermentation level.

Is Liquor Vegan – Types of Liquor

Did you know that when people talk about liquor they are referring to just six base liquors? All liquor-based drinks will originate from one of these six bases of liquor. Can you guess what they are?

Let me tell you. They are Vodka, Tequila, Brandy, Gin, Whiskey, and Rum. As I talked about in my post Is Alcohol Vegan? How to Know the Truth – most liquors are vegan. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule which I will go through in this post – what if I told you about a Gin that contains ants, or how about beetles in cherry brandy?

This post isn’t meant to be a definitive list of liquors that aren’t vegan – I have tried to focus more on general non-vegan exceptions to watch out for to make it as helpful as possible. Top tip – a super helpful resource is Barnivore.

Want to know if your favorite Beer or Wine is Vegan?

Are you also a beer or wine drinker? Are you curious to know if your favorite beer or wine is vegan? How about a recommended list of wines to buy? Then check out some of my following pieces:

Is Liquor Vegan – The Main Things To Look Out For

The below table summarizes the main non-vegan exceptions to look out for in liquor brands. I will then break down each type of liquor separately below.

Type of LiquorMain Non-Vegan Exceptions
VodkaCreamy flavors e.g. coffee, caramel, coconut & chocolate – all contain dairy

Honey flavors (contain honey)
TequilaTequila cream liquors contain dairy
BrandyCochineal in Cherry Brandy for coloring

Sugar processed with Bone Char
GinHoney in Gin (even if it is not labeled as “honey flavored”)

Cochineal in some red color Gin (e.g. blood orange gin)
WhiskeyWhiskey creams contain dairy

Honey flavors (contain honey)
RumHoney flavors (contain honey)

Malibu Rum uses non-vegan sugar

Rum cream liquors contain dairy

Is Liquor Vegan – Is Vodka Vegan?

Is Liquor Vegan - Vodka

Most vodkas are vegan. The main vodkas that can be non-vegan are the flavored varieties – mainly any creamy flavored vodkas (coffee, caramel, coconut, and chocolate) which contain dairy. Also, be on the lookout for any honey-flavored vodkas which will contain honey. Unflavored and fruit-flavored vodka is almost always vegan.

Non-Vegan Coffee Flavored Vodka ExamplesNon-Vegan Caramel Flavored Vodka ExamplesNon-Vegan Coconut Flavored Vodka ExamplesNon-Vegan Chocolate Flavored Vodka ExamplesNon-Vegan Honey Flavored Vodka Examples
Cutwater Horchata VodkaStolichnaya Salted Karamel VodkaUV Coconut VodkaTwo Birds After Dinner Mint VodkaStolichnaya Sticki Honey Vodka
Two Bords Salted Caramel Vodka Rain Honey Mango Vodka
Nemiroff Honey Pepper Vodka
Deep Eddie Sweet Tea Vodka

Is Vodka Vegan – Conclusion

In conclusion, when it comes to Vodka, so long as you avoid any creamy-flavored vodkas as well as honey or iced tea-flavored vodka then this liquor is almost certainly vegan. If you are a fan of fruit-flavored vodkas then you are also in luck as fruit-flavored vegans are almost always vegan.

Lastly, if you just can not get over the fact that coffee-flavored vegan is often not vegan here is a link to a Coffee and Black Walnut Coffee Vodka from Rhode Island Spirits which is vegan. You can check it out on their website here.

Is Liquor Vegan – Is Tequila Vegan?

Is Liquor Vegan - Tequila

Tequila is always vegan – the main exception is tequila creams which contain dairy.

Tequila lovers rejoice – out of the six base liquors, this was the liquor I found the fewest non-vegan exceptions. First, and most importantly let’s talk about worms. Real tequila does not contain worms in the bottle – this is tequila’s brother Mezcal. What’s the difference – Tequila must be made from at least 51% Blue Weber Agave, while Mezcal can be made from a blend of any type of agave plants.

The only non-vegan tequila I came across was Tequila Rose Strawberry Cream Liqueur (and that is obviously super easy to spot with the word “cream” in the name).

Is Liquor Vegan – Is Brandy Vegan?

Is Liquor Vegan - Brandy

Brandy is almost always vegan. The main exceptions are:

  1. Cherry Brandy will sometimes contain cochineal (crushed beetles) to give it the red color; and
  2. Some brandy brands use non-vegan sugar (which has been processed with bone char).

Non-Vegan Cherry Brandy (Contains Cochineal) ExamplesVegan Cherry Brandy ExamplesBrandy Which Uses Non-Vegan Sugar Examples
Bols Cherry BrandyDuBouchett Cherry BrandyKorbel Brandy uses C&H Sugar which uses bone char to process
Castle Glen Cherry Brandy

Is Liquor Vegan – Is Gin Vegan?

Is Liquor Vegan - Gin

Most gins are vegan. There are, however, a few gins that contain honey – making them not vegan. It is often difficult to tell if a gin contains honey as the word ‘honey’ is not in the flavor description of the gin. The only other non-vegan ingredient to watch out for in gin is insects – cochineal (crushed beetles) can be found in blood orange gin and one gin brand contains the essence of wood ants.

Gin That Contains Honey ExamplesGin That Contains Cochineal (Crush Beetles) ExampleGin That Contains Ant Essence
Herno Old Tom GinNosferatu Blood Orange GinAnty Gin – contains the essence of 62 wood ants
Orkney Johannistag Navy Strength Old Tom Gin
Warner’s Harrington Honeybee Gin
Silent Pool Gin
Archie Rose Distiller’s Strength Gin
Anther Anther X Taxi Gin
Anno Orange & Honey Gin
Absintherie Des Cantons Old Major Tom Gin
Tarquin’s British Blackberry Gin

Is Gin Vegan – Things To Look Out For

As you can see from the above table, it is a lot harder to spot if a gin contains honey than if a vodka contains honey. Yes, there are a few that have the word “honey” in the name such as Warner’s Harrington Honeybee Gin and Anno Orange & Honey Gin. Similarly, Absintherie Des Cantons Old Major Tom Gin helpfully lists honey on the bottle. However, it is not always obvious.

The only way to know if a gin contains honey is to check the Barnivore resource or contact the manufacturer directly. Please note the above is just a list of examples – it is not a definitive list.

Oh yes and watch out for the occasional gin which contains insects. Yes, insects. Although that is super rare – Anty Gin does contain the essence of wood ants.

My personal favorite gin brand is Sipsmith – they even state that their gins are vegan on their website. I discovered Sipsmith gins when I lived back in the UK. I am pleased to see they are now available over here in the US now as well.

Is Liquor Vegan – Is Whiskey Vegan?

Is Liquor Vegan - whiskey

Whiskey is almost always vegan. The main non-vegan whiskeys are those that contain honey and whiskey creams that contain dairy. These non-vegan whiskeys tend to be easy to spot as they usually, although not always, contain the words “honey” or “cream” in the name.

Whiskey Cream Examples (contain Dairy)Whiskeys That Contain Honey Examples
Salamanca Cream Whisky LiqueurD’Entrecasteaux Honey Whisky Liqueur
Hellyers Road Whisky Cream LiqueurDrambuie Scotch Whiskey
Demijohn Bramble Scotch Whisky LiqueurMississippi River Queen Bee Honey Whiskey

Is Liquor Vegan – Is Rum Vegan?

Is Liquor Vegan - Rum

Most rums are vegan. The main non-vegan rums to watch out for are rums containing honey (usually spiced or flavored rums) and rum creams that contain dairy. It is also worth noting that Malibu Coconut Rum, although it does not contain any animal derivatives, uses sugar that is processed in a non-vegan-friendly way.

Rum Containing Non-Vegan Sugar ExamplesRum Containing Honey ExamplesRum Creams (Containing Dairy) Examples
Malibu uses a sugar supplier that uses a non-vegan friendly process (mostly likely the use of bone char)Siesta Key Brand contains honey in all flavored rumsRum Chata
Adelaide Hills Gunnery Spiced White RumRum-Bar Rum Cream

Is Liquor Vegan? – The Final Sip

It may seem that there are a lot of non-vegan exceptions but fear not – most liquors are vegan. The main non-vegan things to watch out for are honey-containing drinks (easy to spot in vodka and often whiskey – not so much so for gin and rum), cream liquors (easy to spot), the occasional cochineal extract (mainly cherry brandy), and the presence of dairy in creamy vodka flavors.

If you aren’t such a fan of flavored liquors and like your liquor pure then it is almost certainly vegan. If you are a vegan that avoids any sugar processed with bone char (some vegans avoid this, others it is not an issue for) then this is an additional thing to watch for in some liquors for example Malibu Coconut Rum.

Other than that, if it has a name with the word “Ants” or anything “insect-related” in it you should probably avoid it.

  • You can double-check the vegan status of liquors in the below Barnivore links in the References.
Is Liquor Vegan

…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

Like this article, want to find out more? Want to know if your favorite wine, or spirit, or even if your favorite beer (yes, your favorite beer) is vegan? Then check out some of our other articles:

References (as at 1 January 2022) –

Vegan and non-vegan vodkas on Barnivore

Vegan and non-vegan gins on Barnivore

Vegan and non vegan brandies on Barnivore

Vegan and non vegan tequilas on Barnivore

Vegan and non vegan whiskies on Barnivore

Vegan and non vegan rums on Barnivore

Editorial Team

The Vegan Bev HQ Editorial Team - helping you find the best vegan drink out there!

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