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:
- Why Is Wine Not Vegan – How to Know The Truth?
- Is Beer Vegan – Introducing the Secret To Finding Out?
- Is Champagne Vegan? Revealing the Truth Behind the Bubbles
- 10 Vegan Wines At Trader Joe’s You Need to Try
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 Liquor||Main Non-Vegan Exceptions|
|Vodka||Creamy flavors e.g. coffee, caramel, coconut & chocolate – all contain dairy |
Honey flavors (contain honey)
|Tequila||Tequila cream liquors contain dairy|
|Brandy||Cochineal in Cherry Brandy for coloring |
Sugar processed with Bone Char
|Gin||Honey in Gin (even if it is not labeled as “honey flavored”)|
Cochineal in some red color Gin (e.g. blood orange gin)
|Whiskey||Whiskey creams contain dairy|
Honey flavors (contain honey)
|Rum||Honey flavors (contain honey)|
Malibu Rum uses non-vegan sugar
Rum cream liquors contain dairy
Is Liquor Vegan – Is Vodka Vegan?
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 Examples||Non-Vegan Caramel Flavored Vodka Examples||Non-Vegan Coconut Flavored Vodka Examples||Non-Vegan Chocolate Flavored Vodka Examples||Non-Vegan Honey Flavored Vodka Examples|
|Cutwater Horchata Vodka||Stolichnaya Salted Karamel Vodka||UV Coconut Vodka||Two Birds After Dinner Mint Vodka||Stolichnaya 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?
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?
Brandy is almost always vegan. The main exceptions are:
- Cherry Brandy will sometimes contain cochineal (crushed beetles) to give it the red color; and
- Some brandy brands use non-vegan sugar (which has been processed with bone char).
|Non-Vegan Cherry Brandy (Contains Cochineal) Examples||Vegan Cherry Brandy Examples||Brandy Which Uses Non-Vegan Sugar Examples|
|Bols Cherry Brandy||DuBouchett Cherry Brandy||Korbel Brandy uses C&H Sugar which uses bone char to process|
|Castle Glen Cherry Brandy|
Is Liquor Vegan – Is Gin Vegan?
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 Examples||Gin That Contains Cochineal (Crush Beetles) Example||Gin That Contains Ant Essence|
|Herno Old Tom Gin||Nosferatu Blood Orange Gin||Anty 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?
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 Liqueur||D’Entrecasteaux Honey Whisky Liqueur|
|Hellyers Road Whisky Cream Liqueur||Drambuie Scotch Whiskey|
|Demijohn Bramble Scotch Whisky Liqueur||Mississippi River Queen Bee Honey Whiskey|
Is Liquor Vegan – Is Rum Vegan?
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 Examples||Rum Containing Honey Examples||Rum 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 rums||Rum Chata|
|Adelaide Hills Gunnery Spiced White Rum||Rum-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.
…now you know.
Beverage makers may change ingredients and/or manufacturing processes. Always double-check ingredients before purchasing any beverages.
Please Drink Responsibly.
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