Vegan and sustainable bar programs are sweeping the nation, and for good reason. For so long, we’ve used animal products in our menus without thinking twice. Most cocktail creatives have also been accustomed to using an ingredient once and discarding it. We’ve dry shaken our fair share of frothy, velvety egg whites, tossed ice into a sink that never touched the lips of a patron, pouring a libation over fresh ice seconds later, and used milk and cream as a staple in many a classic. Vegan cocktail ingredients can help eliminate some of this waste, while also making menus more accessible.
As trends grow and creators and consumers are making choices that’ll leave less of a carbon footprint, many of us are wondering, what are some alternative vegan cocktail ingredients and techniques to use in our creations that won’t compromise on flavor or aesthetics?
Alternative Vegan Cocktail Ingredients
Many cocktails include egg whites. It’s a tool to create a froth or merengue-like layer atop a cocktail, and they can add a beautiful, opaque glow to a glass. Eggs aren’t vegan, though, and they aren’t cost-effective or sustainable, either. Instead, grab a can of chickpeas, drain the water and make Aquafaba by “dry-shaking” the chickpea water, which will create the airy emulsifying agent just as an egg white does. The result is silky smooth, doesn’t carry the stench of egg whites, and melds seamlessly in a sour or fizz.
Nut Butter Fat Wash
Bartenders have taken a liking to fat-washing alcohol in the resurgence of classic, craft cocktails. It’s a unique way to infuse the earthy, salty flavor of many fats into spirits, creating layered flavors in cocktails. Bacon and butter have been commonly used in this practice, but why not make it vegan and use nut butters instead? To make a peanut butter fat wash, melt the peanut butter down slowly in a sauté pan (creamy only!). Choose your spirit (bourbon is divine here, but many will work) and combine them. Then, place the infusion in the freezer overnight, where the fat will separate from the spirit creating a hardened layer. Scrape the peanut butter off the top, strain the spirit to remove residuals, and there you have your peanut butter fat-washed bourbon.
Do not fear the coconut, my friends, as it’s not solely a cream for tiki drinks. Coconut can be used in many forms for beverages — use the milk as a substitute in a White Russian, of course, or get creative and make a coconut foam as a vegan alternative to whipped cream. You will need a whip creamer to create your delectable foam topper from this palm drupe, but the result is well worth it. Add coconut milk, lime and granulated sugar to your whipper, and dispense atop your cocktail. Voila! Vegan, coconut whipped cream.
Bar industry folks are here for good time, and we want the planet to be around for a long time. What vegan cocktail ingredients and sustainable bar alternatives will we think of next?
Author, Kelsey Westbrook is a spirits writer and beverage director in Louisville, Kentucky. She is the author of the LEO Weekly column, “Barkeep Confessions,” and has been featured in Bourbon Plus Magazine, Churchill Downs Magazine, and more. Currently, she runs the bar program at Louisville’s premiere karaoke establishment, NoraeBar.