Is Vodka Vegan? There are four things you need to know about vodka: (1) “Vodka” actually means “little water”; (2) Vodka can be made from almost anything – even potatoes (yes, potatoes) and horseradish; and (3) you are meant to drink it cold, like sticking it in the freezer before serving cold (and no, it won’t freeze). If you knew all three, then guess what…you know a lot about Vodka.
Vodka now is the best-selling liquor in the US, surpassing Whiskey for the number-one spot since 1976. According to Statista, both the top two selling liquors in the US were Vodka brands (Smirnoff at no.1 and Tito’s Vodka at No.2). Smirnoff alone was responsible for two and a half million cases of Vodka in the United States (Tito’s was 1.7 million). It got me wondering about Vodka being so popular, what is Vodka, how is it made, and most importantly, is vodka vegan?
Is Vodka Vegan?
As a general rule, most vodkas are vegan. The main non-vegan vodkas to watch out for are those that are creamy flavored (e.g. coffee, coconut, chocolate, and caramel) as they contain dairy and honey-flavored vodka as they contain honey. Unflavored and fruity-flavored vodkas are almost always vegan. There are a few vodka brands that use animal-based fining agents, or even animal-derived ingredients, but these are in the minority.
Spoiler alert – out of the six spirits we have looked at (vodka, whiskey, tequila, rum, gin, and brandy) vodka has the most non-vegan varieties. But it’s not all bad news – a rough and ready calculation of the vegan vs non-vegan vodkas on Barnivore still showed 87% of vodkas as vegan (vs 13% as not vegan). So the vast majority of vodkas are vegan.
What is Vodka?
Traditional Vodka is colorless and flavorless alcohol made from the fermentation of water and cereal grains such as wheat, rice, corn, sorghum, or rye. However, it can also be made from other ingredients such as potatoes, fruits, and even just sugar. Essentially, Vodka can be made from anything that contains sugar or starch and can be fermented. Typical Vodkas have an ABV ranging from 40 to 55 % ABV. The drink aims to avoid any flavoring substances which are more typical of other liquors such as Whiskey or Tequila.
Debate still exists as to who invented the drink and where it came from. But the drink became a main staple in Russia during the 14th Century. Around the same time, Vodka appeared in Poland as a medical drink until it become so popular people just drank it casually.
Today Vodka is most popularly associated with the Vodka Belt of European countries. The countries are Russia, Finland, Sweden, Ukraine, and Poland.
Is Vodka Vegan – The Vodka Taste
Traditionally it is an odorless, clear, and tasteless substance. The vodka itself is manufactured to be a tasteless water and alcohol-drinking solution.
Is Vodka Vegan – How is Vodka Made?
What distinguishes Vodka from other liquors is the need for the final product to essentially just be alcohol and water. In the US, Vodka is defined as a “neutral spirit” which is defined as “produced from any material at or above 190° proof… and bottled at no less than 80° proof”.
Is Vodka Vegan – Base Ingredients
Vodka recipes vary from country to country depending on where it is made. For example, here are some of the more unusual bases used from around the world:
- Bombora, Australia – uses Grapes;
- Vodka O, Australia – uses Whey (not vegan);
- Crystal Head, Canada – uses Peaches and Cream Corn;
- Vikingfjord, Norway – uses Potatoes;
- Glen’s, UK – uses Sugar Beet;
- Firefly, US – uses Muscadines;
- Tito’s, US – uses Yellow Corn;
- Zoladkowa Gorzka – uses 27 herbs and fruits; and
- Black Cow, UK – Milk (definitely not vegan).
These are just some of the more unusual bases, but you get the idea. The most common base remains Wheat, Rye, or Grain. Add some water and yeast and you got yourself a Vodka base. Pretty simple.
Is Vodka Vegan – Fermentation and Distillation
Making Vodka involves two steps – fermentation and distillation.
Step 1 – Fermentation
Fermentation is the process of mixing water, any kind of food that contains sugar or starch, and then adding yeast to start a fermentation process. The yeast acts as an enzyme, breaking down the sugar in the base liquid and turning it into alcohol.
Though unusual, due to the distillation process, some Vodka manufacturers may still choose to use non-vegan fining agents at the end of fermentation to remove yeast or other impurities from the fermented batch. Examples of non-vegan fining agents include gelatin, isinglass (dried fish bladders), casein (milk proteins), and egg albumen.
If you want to learn more about fining agents I discuss them in detail in my piece: Why Is Wine Not Vegan – How To Know The Truth.
Step 2 – Distillation
Distillation is the process of using heat to separate alcohol from water. A base that has finished fermentation will be heated to certain temperatures to force alcohol (which evaporates at a lower boiling temperature of around 82 degrees centigrade compared to the 100 degrees centigrade of water). The steamed alcohol is then cooled and condensed to be collected in a concentrated form.
Distillation is the only way to produce an alcoholic beverage with an ABV higher than around 18 % ABV. This is because as the fermented base of Vodka increases in ABV it starts to prevent the yeast from continuing the fermentation process (effectively killing it off due to its strength).
This distillation process is not only used to separate the alcohol but is also a “purification” process, removing unwanted molecules and unwanted flavor profiles from Vodka. For this reason, Vodka will undergo several distillations – a fact that Vodka manufacturers will highlight on their bottles. Ever seen “Triple Distilled” on a Vodka Bottle? Well, that means it went through this distillation process three times. The result is a smoother, cleaner, and purer Vodka (this is where the whole “proof” thing comes from – just know the higher the proof – the higher the ratio of alcohol to water in the bottle – it is just ABV % doubled).
What’s the most distilled Vodka?
Want to know the most distilled vodka? Well, in my research I came across Buffalo Trace CLIX, a vodka that has been distilled 159 separate times. It retails for around $300. Smirnoff, in comparison, is triple-distilled – that’s three times.
What about other Liquor?
Are you not just interested in Vodka? What about other liquors like Whiskey, Tequila, Rum, Gin, and Brandy – are they vegan? How about your favorite beer, cider, or wine – do you think they are vegan? Interested to find out? Then check out my other pieces:
- Is Liquor Vegan? How to Actually Pick Vegan Liquor
- Is Alcohol Vegan? How to Know the Truth
- Why is Wine Not Vegan – How to Know the Truth
- Is Beer Vegan – Introducing the Secret to Finding Out
- Is Cider Vegan? How to Know the Pressing Truth
- Is Champagne Vegan? Revealing The Truth Behind the Bubbles
Is Vodka Vegan – Flavored and Infused Vodkas
One of the most popular types of vodkas available is flavored vodkas. Ever seen a raspberry-flavored vodka, how about strawberry, or maybe even citrus? Yep, flavored Vodkas are everywhere. They are also the reason why some Vodkas are not vegan – for example, the addition of honey as a flavoring. But did you know there is a difference between flavored Vodka and Infused Vodka?
Flavored Vodkas are based on pre-made plain vodka which is then flavored. Flavorings, fruits, juices, or distillates can be added to the plain vodka to turn it into a flavored Vodka. Most often artificial flavorings will be used.
Infused Vodkas are plain vodkas that have been left with additional flavors (such as berries, herbs, or spices) for long periods of time. This allows for the maximum exposure of the chosen flavor to be infused into the vodka. Infused vodkas will often use real fruits and herbs for flavorings, whereas flavored vodkas will tend to use artificial flavorings. For simplicity in this article, I will refer to infused or flavored Vodkas as “flavored” vodkas.
Is Vodka Vegan – Are the Big Vodka Brands Vegan?
Now to find out which brands are vegan, and which are not.
To make this as useful as possible, I will start by going through seven big vodka brands and looking at whether they are vegan or not. I will then talk you through some of the flavored vodkas to watch out for that sometimes aren’t vegan. I will then finish by looking at some vodka brands that are not vegan.
Is Smirnoff Vodka Vegan?
Smirnoff is the biggest vodka brand in the World! Smirnoff does not address whether their vodkas are vegan on their website, but here is their most recent response on Barnivore (as at 4 Jan 2022):
“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.”Smirnoff Barnivore Response
It is worth noting that they use charcoal from birch wood to process their vodkas and not bone char.
Is Tito’s Vodka Vegan?
Tito’s address helpfully addresses whether their vodka is vegan on their website. They state that they do not use any animal ingredients or by-products, they don’t use any animal products in the production process, and they don’t carry out animal testing. Wonderful. You can treat yourself to a bottle of vegan vodka from Amazon here. It is smooth tasting, reasonably priced, easily accessible, and proudly vegan. What’s not to love?
Is Stoli Vodka Vegan?
Stoli’s Salted Karamel Flavored Premium Vodka contains dairy and Stoli Sticki vodka contains honey. According to Barnivore (as of 4 Jan 2022), the rest of their vodkas including the flavored ones are vegan. This even includes some creamy chocolatey flavors like Chocolat Kokonut Vodka (available on Instacart here) and Chocolate Razberi (available on Instacart here).
Is Absolut Vodka Vegan?
This one is easy. Absolut vodka has the following statement on its website:
“YES. All Absolut products are absolutely vegan, thus they do not contain any animal products and no such products are used in the production process. We do not use any animal derivatives, either directly in the product itself, or to filter the product. We do not use bone chars in any process.”Absolut Website
You can treat yourself to a bottle of Absolut vodka from Instacart here.
Is Grey Goose Vodka Vegan?
Whether Grey Goose is vegan or not is not addressed on their website but on Barnivore (as at 4 Jan 2022) they have confirmed that they do not use any animal ingredients or by-products and they do not use bone char in the production process. You can find Grey Goose vodka on Instacart here.
Is Ketel One Vodka Vegan?
Is Beluga Vodka Vegan?
Beluga Noble Vodka contains honey and Beluga Gold contains lactose so these two Beluga vodkas are not vegan. Beluga states that they do not use any animal ingredients in Beluga Transatlantic Vodka (available on Instacart here) nor in Beluga Allure Vodka so these two Beluga vodkas are vegan.
Is Vodka Vegan – Vodka Things to Watch Out For
As you can see from the above, a lot of the big vodka brands are vegan, but the main thing you need to watch out for is certain flavored vodka. I have put together two tables below detailing some of the main flavored vodkas you need to watch out for along with vegan and non-vegan examples (obviously the only one I couldn’t do that for was honey as almost all honey-flavored vodkas contain, well honey).
Non-Vegan Flavored Vodkas
|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||Two Birds Salted Caramel Vodka||UV Coconut Vodka||Two Birds After Dinner Mint Vodka||Rain Honey Mango Vodka|
|Stolichnaya Salted Karamel Vodka||Nemiroff Honey Pepper Vodka|
|Deep Eddie Sweet Tea Vodka|
|Stolichnaya Sticki Honey Vodka|
|Little Black Dress Pineapple Honey Vodka|
Vegan Options for Coffee, Caramel, Coconut, and Chocolate Flavored Vodkas
|Vegan Coffee Flavored Vodka Options||Vegan Caramel Flavored Vodka Options||Vegan Coconut Flavored Vodka Options||Vegan Chocolate Flavored Vodka Options|
|Death Wish Coffee Vodka (Drizly link)||Cuba Caramel Vodka||V Gallery Coconut Vodka||Stoli Chocolate Razberi (Instacart link)|
|Myer Farm Coffee Vodka||Skinnygirl Island Coconut Vodka (Instacart link)||Stoli Chocolat Kokonut (Instacart link)|
|V Gallery Coffee Vodka|
Non-Vegan Vodka Brands
Researching for this blog post and looking through Barnivore, most vodka brands are vegan. There are some that are not, however, for different reasons which are detailed below.
|Non-Vegan Vodka Brand||Reasons As To Why Not Vegan|
|Pucker Vodka||“Does not conform to vegan standards”|
|Pinnacle Vodka||“Does not conform to vegan standards”|
|Svedka Vodka||Animal-derived fining agents|
|Fleischmann’s Vodka||Ingredients from third-party vendors contain trace amounts of animal-derived ingredients|
|Silent Sam Vodka||Processed with silk|
|Platinum 7x Vodka||“Not appropriate for a vegan diet”|
|Broken Shed Vodka||Distilled from Whey|
|Todka Vodka||“Not Vegan”|
|Sobieski Vodka||A lactose-derived enzyme used in production|
|New Amsterdam Vodka||Potential non-vegan fining agents used|
Is Vodka Vegan – The Final Sip
Vodka. It is colorless, odorless, tasteless and the most popular drink in the world. It is the essential ingredient you need for any Bloody Mary, Vodka Martini, Moscow Mule, Cosmopolitan, Black Russian, Sex on the Beach, Long Island Iced Tea, and the list goes on and on. Vodka is such a versatile liquor because its production process aims to create a substance made from just water and alcohol. That’s it. Whilst, plain Vodka, in theory, is vegan the main thing to watch out for is flavored vodkas. If you love flavored vodkas how about making your own infused or flavored vodka – after all they all start with plain vodka as the base. I have read stories of people soaking their vodka with oats, oranges, berries, etc. Get a vat, mix them together and let them infuse for a period in your basement. Be the master of your own Vodka.
- You can double-check the vegan status of vodkas in the Barnivore link in the below references.
…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:
- Is Alcohol Vegan? How To Know The Truth
- 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
- Is Cider Vegan? How to Know the Pressing Truth
- 10 Must Buy Vegan Wines At Trader Joe’s
- Is Liquor Vegan? How to Actually Pick A Vegan Liquor
Vegan vs non-vegan vodkas on Barnivore(as at 30 December 2021)