Whether you are newly plant-based or a seasoned ethical vegan, it can be shocking what foods and drinks have animal products lurking in their ingredients. Sometimes, even if the ingredients are derived from plants, a product may not be vegan because of the processing or refining methods it undergoes. Anyone that wants to commit to the vegan lifestyle must do a little research before purchasing products such as alcohol, even if the ingredients list does not explicitly contain animal products.
In addition to more well known animal products like milk and eggs, some alcohols contain hidden remnants of insects, or have been filtered with the entrails of fish. Dyes such as “carmine” are made with the dried and crushed bodies of pregnant beetles, used as red food colouring and disguised as “natural” on ingredients labels.
Isinglass is a common product used in the fining, or clarification, process for some beers, wine, and cider. It’s a kind of collagen made from the swim bladder of fish, traditionally sturgeon, a critically endangered species that is important to ecosystems in North America. Now, isinglass is often made from the swim bladders of cod, which are meant to keep them buoyant underwater. So, some of your favourite drinks may not even be vegetarian, let alone vegan.
Luckily, as for virtually every food product on the planet, there is a plant-based substitute. Irish sea moss can replace isinglass in the fining and clarification process for all alcohols. Many companies are listening to their vegan customers and switching to this cruelty-free alternative or updating their filtration systems to eschew the need altogether. Most notably, the makers of Guinness beer made the switch in 2017 and have confirmed that most of their products are now vegan-friendly.
If you are unsure whether or not an alcoholic product is vegan, the Barnivore app has an exhaustive list of products that are confirmed to be vegan-friendly. The dedicated company personally contacts the makers of popular and more niche brands to ensure their products are made without the use of any unsavoury animal ingredients.
Not all plant-based restaurants offer strictly vegan alcohol options, largely unbeknownst to their unsuspecting vegan customers who trust that the company is honest when claiming to be a vegan business.
However, truly dedicated vegan businesses like the innovative Mythology Diner located in Parkdale are true to the movement and only offer a selection of certified vegan wines, beers, and creative cocktails. My personal favourite is the Gin and Cran Jam, which deliciously mixes gin, fresh lemon juice and thyme with cranberry jam! Check out my ever-changing menu and treat yourself to a refreshing drink, free from harm and guilt.