How to raise a glass to Vegan tipples

In the final part of her four-part series to mark Veganuary, KATE RYAN of tells us about the drinks and tipples that are vegan-friendly and how to avoid pitfalls with vegan wine, beer and spirits
How to raise a glass to Vegan tipples

SHARING HER KNOWLEDGE: Wine merchant and expert Fionnuala Harkin of Wines Direct. You can catch up on Kate Ryan’s entire Veganuary series online at Picture: thadytraphoto

YOU would think a vegan-friendly drink would be easy enough to spot: as long as it doesn’t contain milk or honey it should be OK, shouldn’t it?

If only it was that simple. Drinks do not have to specifically say they are vegan-friendly, and certification to use the Vegan approved mark costs money and time in paperwork.

You could scan the ingredients list where dairy must be listed as an allergen, for example; and sometimes producers will make a point of mentioning on the label that their product is vegan-friendly.

But how much do you know about vegan-friendly alcohol? How certain are you that your favourite beer, glass of wine or G&T is free from any animal-derived products?

With regards to beer and wine, filtration at the final stage of production can make use of egg whites, milk proteins or Isinglass (a product derived from fish and common in brewing), rendering them decidedly non-vegan.

Many of our craft breweries, however, are friendly to vegans as most prefer to leave the beer unfiltered (identifiable by the hazy sediment that appears towards the end of a beer, for example), believing that the least possible intervention during production makes for a more natural end product.

Cork breweries Blacks of Kinsale, Clonakilty Brewing Co, West Cork Brewing Co, Eight Degrees Brewing, Franciscan Well, Rising Sons, 9 White Deer and Elbow Lane are all Vegan-friendly craft beers.

This is also a problem with wine, but one that makers are taking issue with and, in certain circles, is being phased out. I spoke to Clonakilty-based wine expert, Fionnuala Harkin, a wine merchant with Wines Direct, consultant for hospitality, a WSET teacher and the founder of Wine Shed, where Fionnuala makes wine accessible and wonderfully entertaining. I started by asking her why not all wine is vegan-friendly?

“In a process called ‘fining’, which happens before the wine is filtered and bottled, egg whites, gelatine, Isinglass or milk casein are sometimes added to the wine. These attract unwanted compounds which can make the wine look hazy or in some cases affect the taste.

“The unwanted particles attach themselves to these fining agents, making them easier to filter out. Fancy restaurants in the ’70s used the same technique with egg whites to clarify their consommé.”

Do all vegan-friendly wines say so on the bottle? If not, how can someone check that it is vegan- friendly?

“More and more winemakers are using bentonite, a fine volcanic clay, to fine their wines, thus using no animal derivatives. While there is Vegan certification for wines, not all vegan wines are certified.

“Many smaller producers are not prepared for the paperwork involved, so there could be many wines on the shelf which use no animal products, but this is not always indicated on the label.

“While fining and filtering of wine is widely practiced, some winemakers believe that too much of it removes essential texture and flavours from the wine.

“There is a move towards unfiltered and un- fined wines, especially in the ‘natural’ wine world. These wines do not use any animal products but may be from small vineyards who are not inclined to go through the certification process.

“The white wines can appear cloudy, which can be mistaken for a fault, but is actually a sign of minimal intervention.”

Can you recommend good

wineries producing wines that are vegan friendly?

“The advantage of getting to know your local wine merchant is that they will have this hidden information. Some of our wines in Wines Direct are certified Vegan, while others are not, but this information is available by checking out website Wines Direct carry a selection of about 150 Vegan-friendly wines, here’s a small excellent selection available from Wines Direct, delivered direct to your door!”

Domaine Horgelus Sauvignon Blanc / Colombard (€12.40) or Merlot / Tannat (€12.95) Delicious, fruity and easy-drinking wines from Gascogne in the south of France.

Neleman Verdil / Viognier or Tempranillo / Monastrell (€14) From organic farmer Dereck Neleman in Spain. Also carbon neutral thanks to abundant tree planting, and very cool wines!

Chateau Sainte Marie Bordeaux white (€15.50) or red (€15.95) An excellent Bordeaux pair from the Dupuch family-owned vineyard, a pure treat - at January friendly prices!

Ciu Ciu Merlettaie (€16.50) An interesting local grape, Pecorino, gives us great texture and tingly freshness in this gorgeous organic wine from Marche in Italy.

Chateau la Baronne Les Lanes (€17.45) Organic, Biodynamic and natural, this blend of Carignan and Grenache from Corbieres, made by husband-and-wife team Anne and Jean Lignieres, has become a from favourite with Wine Shed viewers.

Feel free to email Fionnuala at for any help choosing your ideal Veganuary wine and follow her on Instagram at @wineshedwestcork for virtual tastings.


If a good classic Gin & Tonic is more your thing, you will have to tread carefully too. While gin is traditionally made from a base spirit distilled from grain, some newer craft gins on the market are made with a base spirit distilled from whey — a milk by-product from industrial cheese making.

Bertha’s Revenge, Minke Gin and Beara Ocean Gin are examples in Cork of whey-distilled gin; but the produce of Cork’s latest distillery, Maharani Gin from Rebel City Distillery; Method & Madness Gin from Irish Distillers as well as Cork’s classic Dry Gin are all grain distilled and therefore Vegan- friendly.


If a sip of booze isn’t for you anyway, but you have a hankering for something refreshing and slightly sparkling, maybe natural fermented drinks are for you.

Cork is a hot-spot for producing some seriously delicious vegan-friendly drinks that are also excellent for maintaining good gut health — essential for us all to increase our ability to absorb micronutrients from the food we eat.

Cork’s original Vegan collective, My Goodness, make their own water-based Kefir using their unique rainwater harvesting technique and flavoured with lemon, ginger or hibiscus. Milk kefir is suitable for vegans, but only when using plant milks such as soy, almond, coconut, cashew or oat.

Kombucha is traditionally fermented from black-tea and sugar that works with a mother-culture or SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts) to create a probiotic, refreshing and slightly sparkling drink. HOLO Kombucha, based in Youghal, brew their kombucha as naturally as possible with no filtration, raw (no heat applied), certified organic, 100% vegan and delicious!

Kvass is an ancient tonic originating from Russia made from beetroot. Hayley Millthorpe of The Cultured Food Company in Skibbereen makes her barrel-aged version with the added extra fire of raw, organic ginger. Kvass is a restorative, pro-biotic tonic packed with gut-healthy bacteria and nutrients from the beetroot. It can be sipped throughout the day as a pick-me-up or made into an end of day cocktail.

A recipe for a Vegan-friendly milk that won’t cost the earth…

During the first lockdown of 2020, Chad Byrne, the Group Innovation and Culinary Development Chef of The Gleneagle Group of Hotels in Killarney, broke the internet with his simple and affordable method for making Oat Milk at home.

Plant-based milks are expensive, but oats are an affordable food stuff and one that grows incredibly well in the Irish climate, and a greatly reduced carbon footprint compared to milks made from almonds, soy, coconut and cashew nuts.

Buying your own oats also means you can ensure the milk is gluten free if required and organic too.

Here Chad provides us with that winning Oat Milk recipe so you too can make your own Vegan-friendly milk using Irish grown oats that are kind on your pocket — and the planet too!


• 1 cup uncooked dry oats

• 3 cups cooled filtered water

• 2 tablespoons sugar or Agave syrup

• 2 tsp rapeseed oil

• Pinch sea salt

• Optional flavourings (e.g vanilla extract)


1. Place oats into a blender with 2 cups of filtered water. Blend at high speed for between 30- 60 seconds. Only blend for a short time as the liquid needs to stay cold, otherwise it will become viscous.

2. Place a piece of muslin or a fine sieve over a bowl and pour in the blended oats to drain completely. When all the liquid has drained through, the Oat Milk is ready to use and will keep for 3-4 days in a bottle or other sterilised air-tight container in the fridge.

3. Discard the oat pulp or make crackers from it (just spread over a greased proof baking tray and cook in the oven till crispy).

You can catch up on Kate Ryan’s entire Veganuary series online at

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