Food for Thought:
The answer to the burning question “What do vegans drink?”
By Penny Arsenault and Irwin Rapoport
August 10, 2023
This has been a hot summer and, at times, quite unbearable for many. It’s important to stay hydrated in the heat, and you should consider this before drinking cocktails. A glass or two of cold water before having an alcoholic beverage is a good idea.
In this column, we would like to introduce you to some suggestions for alcoholic and mocktail recipes that we expect will be a hit at any garden party or BBQ. (Check our guide to vegan grilling: Food for Thought: Vegan barbecue recipes) Vegans can and do drink alcohol. The terms vegan and alcohol are not mutually exclusive!
… virtually every brand of liqueur and hard liquor (distilled spirits) – bourbon, whiskey, tequila, brandy, vodka, gin, and rum – is vegan.
In fact, vegan-friendly alcohol is more common than non-vegan alcohol, so you don’t have to worry about giving up drinking if you decide to become plant-based. Fortunately, virtually every brand of liqueur and hard liquor (distilled spirits) – bourbon, whiskey, tequila, brandy, vodka, gin, and rum – is vegan. The exceptions are cream-based liqueurs and a few products that mention honey in the ingredients. Also, you may want to avoid tequilas that include larvae in the bottle!
Before getting started on cocktails, it may be handy to have a cocktail shaker and strainer to feel like a pro. If not, a jar does the trick.
Here are some classic favourites:
Most Margaritas are vegan, although many packaged Margarita mixes contain egg. This recipe from scratch is egg-free and just the right sweet/tangy/salty combo. Using a good-quality tequila along with the triple sec ensures sweetness but you can always add a sweetener after tasting.
- 2 oz tequila (blanco, silver or reposado)
- 1 oz Cointreau or triple sec, or blue curaçao
- 3/4 oz (20 ml) fresh lime juice or lemon juice if you don’t have lime
- Optional sweetener – agave or simple syrup (only add after mixing)
- Ice cubes or crushed ice
- Salt – Use any kind of salt you have on hand. This is to coat the rim of the glass and combines nicely with the tangy sweet lime for a sweet salty taste experience.
Place salt on a small plate. Wet the rim of a glass using a slice of lime. Dip in salt to coat the rim.
Combine tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, in a cocktail shaker, and shake until well combined. Taste and add sweetener if required.
Fill the glass with some ice cubes and pour in the margarita mixture.
Perfect for a hot summer day, this classic cocktail is so refreshing, and it’s also a great vegan option. The cocktail is made with fresh mint, lime juice, sugar, and rum. This one is blended but is equally enjoyable if you decide not to blend and pour the liquid over ice cubes instead.
- 2 oz lime juice (from 2 or 3 limes)
- 4 oz (1/2 cup) white rum
- 2 oz (1/4 cup) simple syrup or agave
- 12 or so fresh mint leaves
- 2 cups of ice
- Sparkling water
Juice limes until you have about the 1/4 cup needed into a high-speed blender.
Add the rum, syrup, mint leaves (leaving out a few leaves for later), and ice. Blend until the mint leaves have pureed.
Give it a taste and blend in more fresh mint as needed.
Pour blended mojitos into two tall glasses and some sparkling water.
Serve with fresh mint and a lime slice.
This cocktail dates back to the 1800s and is believed to be invented by sailors making use of what was available on long sea voyages. Fresh water was hard to come by, making alcohol like whiskey and bourbon the preferred drink. Also brought along in big quantities were lemons and limes to prevent scurvy. It was just a matter of time till this drink invented itself. It has been adapted and improved through the years.
- 1 oz simple syrup
- 1.5 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2.5 oz whiskey
- 1 cup ice cubes
- Dash of Angostura bitters (Campari can be used if you have no bitters.)
- 1 lemon for garnish – sliced, or small twists of peel
Add syrup, lemon juice, and whiskey to a cocktail shaker or jar.
Add ice to the shaker and shake for 10 to 15 seconds.
Strain liquid into a glass.
Add that little dash of bitters.
Add a small slice of lemon or twist.
This combination of coconut cream and pineapple is considered the official cocktail of Puerto Rico, and there are many claims to the origin of the drink. It may have been invented by a Robin Hood-like pirate in the 19th century, trying to avoid mutiny on his ship by creating this drink out of available staples onboard: coconut, pineapple, and rum.
There are also claims from a professor who invented a method of coconut cream extraction and is believed by some to be the true creator of Pina Colada. The most widely held belief is that a bartender at the San Juan Hilton was the first to mix it up. You can decide for yourself who the most likely inventor was as you sip on this creamy delight.
- ½ cup (120 ml) coconut rum
- 2 cups (475 ml) pineapple juice
- 1 cup (240 ml) canned coconut cream
- 1 cup (240 ml) ice
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar
- Slice of pineapple or maraschino cherry for garnish (optional)
Put all ingredients except sugar into a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
Taste and add sugar, if necessary.
Pour into glasses and garnish with a slice of pineapple or cherry.
Here Irwin and Penny share some of their faves, along with some memories.
It was the fall of 1981, my first semester of university. I was studying at Concordia, but many of my friends were attending McGill. During Frosh Week, the McGill Engineering Society had a James Bond-themed event and they served an awesome alcoholic fruit punch in which they marinated the fruit for several hours.
Within a few short hours, the punch was consumed and a massive amount of alcohol-infused fruit was all that remained. Needless to say, we ate the fruit too, and it was delicious. We just dipped our cups into the fruit and ate it as we talked and laughed.
Here is a Jungle Juice recipe that I am sure will be the hit of any party.
Every Christmas, my friends George and Danka throw a party which is the highlight of the season, giving us a chance to meet up with old friends and meet new people. In addition to the excellent food, company, and Cosmopolitans, they serve chilled red and green shots in small shot glasses, which are very well received.
Cranberry Vodka Shots
- Cranberry Juice
- Vodka – your choice (George and Danka use Grey Goose.)
Mix two cups of vodka with two to three cups of cranberry juice in a container.
Adjust to taste.
Chill in the freezer but do not let any ice form.
Serve in shot glasses.
Apple Rum Shots
- Any amber rum
- Green apple non-alcoholic mix (George and Danka use the mix from IGA)
Prepare a mix of one-third rum and two-thirds green apple mix.
Place in the fridge to chill.
Serve in shot glasses.
One can drink a combination of both. They are easy to consume, so my advice would be to have a few and enjoy the buzz. Drinking water helps to fend off hangovers, and that allows you to have more as the gathering progresses.
Here are some other recipes we found that you may want to experience:
Whether one has had rum punches in The Bahamas, Jamaica, or St. Lucia and other islands, they are wonderful. Here is a Jamaican Rum Punch with a punch, complete with pictorial instructions.
Martha Stewart has some bodacious suggestions.
Don’t Drink and “Dive” – A cautionary tale
I’m usually a bit of a teetotaller, having an occasional drink, which can have a strong effect. However, I was once invited to a most elegant dinner party at the home of a new acquaintance. It was held around their pool, with a classic string quartet setting the mood, tables set in crisp white cloth, and white glove service of flowing cocktails. It was hot, I was thirsty, and there was seamless service of sweet drinks. We were soon seated, the meal served, and I never noticed the stealthy waiters who kept topping up my wine glass to the same level all evening.
After dinner, a well-dressed gentleman came over to speak to me. He said that the evening was deceivingly elegant,because after dinner at these parties, pretty much everyone ended up in the pool with their clothes on.
I was surprised, wondering at this new group of friends who were so elegant and yet so unbelievably playful. He suggested we be the first in, and, well you guessed it, I fell for it.
We went to the edge of the pool. He counted down. I jumped, but he didn’t. The rest is a pretty embarrassing tale, which ended with the hostess lending me a bright pink Juicy Couture sweat suit, and my previously perfect coif starting to curl up in an almost vengeful way.
I blame the cocktails and wine. So apropos that cautionary tale, I will now suggest some ideas for non-alcoholic beverages!
Virgin Strawberry Mango Margarita
From Eating Well
- 3 cups frozen strawberries
- 3 cups ice, divided
- 1 cup water, divided
- ⅔ cup lime juice, divided
- ½ cup orange juice, divided
- ¼ cup simple syrup (see Tip), divided
- 3 cups frozen mango chunks
Place strawberries, 1 1/2 cups ice, 1/2 cup water, 1/3 cup lime juice, 1/4 cup orange juice, and 2 tablespoons of simple syrup in a blender.
Puree until smooth. Transfer to a pitcher or bowl.
Rinse out the blender jar. Place mango and the remaining 1 1/2 cups ice, 1/2 cup water, 1/3 cup lime juice, 1/4 cup orange juice, and 2 tablespoons of simple syrup in the blender. Puree until smooth.
Decoratively layer the two margaritas in 6 glasses. Leave the layers distinct or partially stir them together for a swirled design.
Also from Eating Well
- ¾ cup fresh lime juice (from 6 limes)
- ¾ cup simple syrup (see TIP)
- ½ cup packed fresh mint leaves
- 2 (2-inch) strips of lime zest
- 4 cups ice cubes
- 2 cups sparkling water
- Lime slices and mint sprigs, for garnish
Combine lime juice, simple syrup, mint leaves, and lime zest in a pitcher
Using the handle of a long wooden spoon, lightly crush the mint and zest.
Add ice cubes and sparkling water; stir to mix well.
Divide among 4 glasses; garnish with lime slices and mint sprigs, if desired.
TIP: To make simple syrup, bring 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Let cool for 30 minutes and then refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour. Simple syrup can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 6 months.
Lemon Ginger Iced Tea
This is a brew I make chilled in summer, and hot in winter. Not just refreshing and soothing, it is also anti-inflammatory.
- 6 cups water
- 1 chunk fresh ginger, peeled (approximately 5 to 6″ in length)
- 3 cinnamon sticks (or 1 to 2 tsp ground cinnamon)
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- The juice of ½ fresh lemon, when ready to serve
- 1 tbsp or more maple syrup
Peel the fresh ginger root and dice it into thin slices.
Bring the water and ginger to a boil. Then turn to low heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
Once simmered, add the cinnamon sticks, or ground cinnamon, and turmeric, and simmer on low heat for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat, let cool, and strain. Add lemon juice and maple syrup.
This makes a nice strong brew, which can be diluted with water if you find it too strong. Pour over ice for a refreshing and thirst-quenching summer drink.
A slight twist on the Bloody Mary that uses horseradish for a spicy, satisfying drink. Here we replace Worcestershire sauce (which contains anchovies) with tamari or soy sauce.
This is actually a healthy nutritious drink!
- 2 cups (500 ml) of tomato juice or Garden Cocktail or V8
- Celery salt
- A drop or two of Tabasco sauce, or more if you want it really hot
- A dash or two of soy sauce or tamari
- Heaping tbsp of horseradish
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Celery stalk (optional)
Prepare 4 glasses by running a lemon wedge around the rim. Pour some celery salt into a shallow dish, and dip the top of the glass into it to coat the rim.
Combine the tomato and lemon juice, horseradish, and a drop of Tabasco in a pitcher.
Add salt, freshly ground pepper, and more hot sauce if required, tasting as you go.
Place ice cubes in the salt-rimmed glasses and pour the mix in, garnishing with celery stalk as desired.
You can also decorate with olives, small pickles, or cocktail onions.
* * * * *
Just a quick reminder, friends don’t let friends drive drunk, and one should drink in moderation. Alcohol can loosen us up, but binge drinking or excessive amounts of wine and spirits is not cool.
We want our guests to enjoy a party but not have a hangover or have an accident getting home.
Feature image: Engin Akyurt, Pexels
A figure skating coach and ballet dancer, Penny Arsenault is a friend to cats, dogs, and all animals, dedicated to fitness and nutrition, and tireless in her optimistic pursuit of the improvement of urban gardens, and preservation of wild spaces.
Irwin Rapoport is a freelance journalist with Bachelor degrees in History and Political Science from Concordia University.