Dirty Rotten Vegan, III - Picking Your Poison

Dirty Rotten Vegan, III - Picking Your Poison
Published: Aug 14, 2013
Los Angeles-based vegan lifestyle blogger Eva Bloomfield reveals some of the hidden animal products used in alcohol production and how to ensure you steer well clear.

So, you've done it. You've transcended steak, bacon, eggs, seafood. For the love of Pete, you've given up CHEESE (I know, that one hurt). The ultimate martyr in the name of compassion, you've shunned many a habit and are feeling pretty darn good about it – not to mention pretty darn healthy. But, hey, we all need to indulge in a vice or two once in a while. Luckily, there's still booze. Many of us enjoy the occasional Friday night buzz. And sometimes there's nothing like sitting back in a well worn armchair with a tumbler of bourbon in hand or sipping some white wine on a girls' night out. Alcohol is a vegan's friend, right? We're talking drinks derived from potatoes, rye, grapes. All reaped from Mother Earth. Simple.

Well, not quite. Yes, the basic ingredients in alcohol are typically vegan, but it's in the processing and filtration of everyone's favorite form of hydration that it gets to be a bit tricky. Be forewarned, though, even not-so-vegan-friendly ingredients sometimes make their way into the product. Dairy and honey are two of the more frequent offenders. Other ingredients are often thrown in to deepen the color of the beverage, so always be sure to check the labels and keep an eye out for the rare straggler.


A word to the wise: avoid a concoction referred to as 'cock ale'.

Then there's filtration. Here's where it gets hairy. In short, filtration is the process of removing impurities from the liquid before bottling. Seems harmless enough, save for the fact that common 'tools' employed for this purpose include gelatin (a mixture of ground-up bones and hooves), egg whites, bone char, and something cryptically referred to as 'isinglass'. This is a form of collagen obtained from dried fish bladders, and widely used to accelerate the clarification process – especially in British real ales and stouts such as Guinness – although very little is left in the finished product.

One other word to the wise: avoid a concoction referred to as 'cock ale'. A drink with a long history, it's traditionally made by dropping the entire carcass of a chicken into the batch...

There goes happy hour! And so much for Bloody Marys and mimosas – is it dry brunches from here on out? Fear not, you won't have to sacrifice your Sunday rituals – there are options. And I won't send you stumbling through the darkness of this non-vegan-alcohol-tainted world alone. Here are a few tips to guarantee the only hootch you're swigging is animal-free:

              - A good rule of thumb: spirits are your best bet.
              - Opt for organic wines.  
              - As for beers, go German. The Germans like to keep their beer pure and have strict laws regarding their ingredients.
              - A couple of guides to get you through your times of uncertainty: The Vegan Wine Guide and Barnivore.com

In the spirit of summer, which should be spent with friends and cocktails, I'll even help you out with a little vegan recipe to kick off your journey down the road of cruelty-free libations:

Sparkling Ginger Pear Sangria

--- Ingredients ---

              - 1 bottle of sparkling wine (see the TreeHugger's Guide to Vegan Sparkling Wine)
              - 1 cup of apple juice
              - 1 pear, sliced
              - 1/4 cup organic crystalized ginger

--- Directions ---

1. Get a large pitcher and fill it a third of the way with ice cubes. Pour in the apple juice, ginger, and pear. Stir and then pop the mixture into the fridge to marinate for a few hours.

2. Once the drink is thoroughly chilled, fill the remainder of the pitcher with the sparkling wine. Now, you know the drill: pour each of your guests (and yourself, of course) a tall glass. If you feel like going the extra mile, you can garnish the cocktail with some pear slices or even encrust the rim of the glass with some ground up crystalized ginger. Give a toast to friendship and long summer nights and drink up!

There you have it, booze hounds. You can still maintain your pursuit of cruelty-free happiness and have a brewski every now and then. Feel free to bust open a classic – the ol' Budweiser is indeed vegan, as is PBR. Or you can try your hand at something adventurous, say a Black Radish Dunkel Beer or a Drunken Monkey Oatmeal Stout. And, for you winos out there, Four Chimneys Organic Wines and a brand called Hip Chicks Do Wine boast a large selection of isinglass-free options. The Vegan Vine is a notable brand that, as its name suggests, solely produces vegan-friendly reds and whites.

Pick your poison – the options are practically boundless! Do your yoga, eat your kale, and then get your liquor on. But, you know, drink responsibly.

Eva Bloomfield is a Los Angeles-based vegan lifestyle blogger with an (un)healthy appetite for all things vegan and cruelty-free - food, fashion, beauty, travel. She can be found tweeting about all of this and more at @dirtyrttnvegan

Image credit: Papa Razzi1

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