Many people are surprised to learn that drinks are not always suitable for vegans.
Some alcoholic drinks, particularly beer, wine and cider, are often clarified using animal-derived substances, making them unsuitable for vegans. A small number contain animal substances as ingredients.
The majority of non-alcoholic drinks are suitable for vegans, although there are a few exceptions to watch out for.
Please note that product information on this page is specific to the UK. Some brands of drinks sold internationally may be suitable for vegans in some countries and unsuitable in others, due to the use of different brewing or manufacturing processes. It is best to check with the manufacturer to find out if a particular product is suitable for vegans in your country.
Alcoholic drinks, particularly beer and wine, are often fined (clarified) using animal-derived substances.
- gelatine (made from bones and connective tissues)
- isinglass (from the swim bladders of fish)
- casein (derived from milk)
- chitosan (made from crustaceans)
- egg albumen
Finings are most commonly used to remove sediment from the finished product.
Vegan alternatives include finings made from bentonite (a type of clay) or derived from algae.
Some manufacturers do not fine their drinks, instead the sediment is left to settle.
The fining agents are mostly removed from the finished product, although small traces may remain. However, as animals have still been used in the manufacture of the product, a drink which has been fined using animal-derived substances is still unsuitable for vegans.
A relatively small number of alcoholic drinks contain animal-derived ingredients, such as honey or cream, which is usually evident from the description of the product.
The majority of non-alcoholic drinks are suitable for vegans. There are just a few ingredients to watch out for:
Gelatine: A small number of drinks contain gelatine (usually orange-coloured soft drinks) or are clarified using gelatine.
Cochineal/E120: Others may include the non-vegan colouring cochineal/E120, a red colouring made from crushed beetles.
Shellac: Occasionally fruit juice may be labelled unsuitable for vegans because it was made with shellac-coated fruit.
See further down this page for non-alcoholic drinks known to be unsuitable for vegans.
Alcoholic drinks are not required to state their ingredients or the processing aids used in their production on the packaging.
Although milk, eggs and fish are normally required to be listed as allergens on food or drink packaging, the use of fish gelatine in drinks is exempt from this requirement.
If a drink (alcoholic or soft) is produced with the use of fish gelatine or isinglass as a fining agent or as a carrier, this is not required to be included in the allergy advice.
Additionally, wine is exempt from declaring the use of milk and egg-derived fining agents.
Where to find vegan drinks
Look for Vegan Society Trademarked products
Some drinks are registered to display the Vegan Society’s Trademark. This means that the product is guaranteed to be free from animal ingredients and will not have been processed using any animal-derived substances.
Why isn’t it vegan?
In some countries beer is often fined with isinglass, which is made from the swim bladders of fish. This is particularly the case in the UK, although this practice is uncommon in other countries such as Germany.
Cask ales in the UK are almost without exception unsuitable for vegans (and vegetarians) for this reason.
Bottled and canned beers are more likely to be suitable for vegans, but by no means always. Some real ales which are not suitable for vegans in cask form are available in unfined bottled versions which are suitable.
A few real ales use honey as an ingredient, but if this is the case it will be stated on the label as the honey is considered a selling point.
Where to find vegan beer
Some manufacturers, such as Samuel Smiths, Batemans, Pitfield Brewery and Lancaster Brewery are registered to display the Vegan Society’s Trademark on their vegan products.
Some manufacturers label their bottled beers as suitable for vegans, including some brands sold in supermarkets. If a beer is labelled suitable for vegetarians it should normally also be suitable for vegans as long as it does not contain honey.
As the brands of beer sold in pubs and restaurants are often fairly standard throughout the UK, it is usually possible to find vegan beers in most places.
Why isn’t it vegan?
Wine can be clarified with various animal-derived substances including gelatine, isinglass, casein, chitosan and egg albumen.
In the EU, although milk and eggs are required to be listed as allergens on food labels, wine is currently exempt from this requirement.
Some wines are labelled ‘suitable for vegetarians’, however this does not mean that they are necessarily suitable for vegans as they could have been filtered with milk or egg-derived substances.
Where to find vegan wine
The following companies produce wines which are registered with the Vegan Society: Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard (England), Oliverhill Winery (Australia), Tishbi Estate Winery (Israel) and Georgas Family (Greece).
Some supermarkets, including Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Marks and Spencer, label their vegan own-brand wines as suitable for vegans.
Tesco online wine shop gives information on which of their wines are suitable for vegans, although the wines in their real-life stores are as yet unlabelled.
Majestic Wines label wines which are suitable for vegans on their website.
Some specialist wine companies such as Vintage Roots or Vinceremos have a good range of vegan wines.
Some independent off-licences will have a vegan wines section. Some vegan or vegetarian wholefoods shops will also sell vegan wines.
Unfortunately is it usually impossible to tell whether wine served in pubs or restaurants is suitable for vegans. Fetzer’s, a brand of wine sold in some supermarkets and in pub chains JD Wetherspoon and Lloyds No. 1, state that their white wines are suitable for vegans (but reds are unsuitable).
Animal-derived substances are not known to be used in the production of gin, vodka, Scotch whisky or brandy.
Some brands of cider are clarified with gelatine.
Fortified wines such as sherry or port may have been fined with animal-derived substances.
Drinks which are not suitable for vegans
Some other alcoholic drinks known to be unsuitable for vegans:
Campari – coloured with cochineal
Baileys – contains milk products
Drambuie – contains honey
Non-alcoholic drinks known to be unsuitable for vegans
Coca-Cola state that their drinks are all free from animal ingredients apart from: Lilt, Lilt Zero, Kia-Ora Orange Squash, Kia-Ora Orange Squash No Added Sugar and Schweppes Orange Squash.
Ocean Spray‘s Cranberry & Pomegranate Juice drink and Grower’s Reserve Cranberry & Pomegranate Juice drink are not currently suitable for vegans as the pomegranate concentrate may have been filtered with gelatine. All other drinks are suitable for vegans (confirmed Feb 11).
Britvic: Robinsons High Juice Blood Orange is not suitable for vegans.