Get More Bar Customers When You Add Vegan Cocktails

The hot trend right now is veganism, and though savvy restaurants are beginning to cater to vegans (it’s one of our 2014 food predictions), bars haven’t yet realized that they’re missing a significant customer base. This article puts your bar in the know about non-vegan and vegan cocktail ingredients, and also recommends ways to get those vegans to notice your bar. Let’s get to it.

What does vegan mean exactly?

Vegans are people who take vegetarianism to a whole new level.

While vegetarians don’t eat meat; vegans avoid all animal products entirely.

Animal products include milk, butter, eggs, honey, bee pollen, and all animal-processed ingredients. Animal-processed ingredients include a lot more than you would think, and one of them is alcoholic drinks.

Drinks have a lot of animal products in them

Think you don’t have any animal-based products in your bar? Think again. Because vegans avoid egg whites, honey, dairy products and Worcestershire sauce, vegan cocktails obviously can’t be traditional White Russians, eggnogs, or Bloody Marys (though you can switch out the non-vegan ingredients for your customers). Because vegans need to know all the ingredients that a recipe was sourced from, they also can’t have pre-made mixes of any kind or share in the joy of secret recipe alcohols like Cointreau.

That’s just the beginning.

Vegans can’t consume a lot of the ingredients at your bar. Here are just a few:

Conventional sugar. It’s refined through a process that involves charred animal bone. To make it vegan, you will want to use “non-char” sugar and make your own simple syrup.

Beer. It’s “fined” (clarified) through isinglass, which is made of fish bladders. To make beer vegan, you can either brew it yourself, or you can check to look for vegan-friendly beers. Some notable options are Blue Moon, Coors, Miller, Budweiser, and anything from New Belgium, the company that makes Fat Tire.

Wine. The filtration process for wine usually involves egg whites. Once again, is going to be your go-to source for finding vegan-friendly wines. One vegan wine is Fetzer’s white wine selection… but wines tend to be harder to “vegan-ify.”

Sake. This is another item that tends not to be vegan, as it’s usually filtered with gelatin.

Ruby red grapefruit juice. Yeah, I know, it’s a juice. But this product gets its vibrant red tones from cochineal, a dye extracted from insects. Campari is also made with cochineal. Who knew?

So what can I serve a vegan?

Did you notice a trend in the previous list? All the alcoholic drinks I mentioned were fermented. At the end of the fermentation process, drinks end up with little bits of residual plant matter floating in them, which have to be filtered out. The filtration is what makes these drinks non-vegan. However, as you saw, not all fermented drinks use animal products. Call the company to check.

Distilled beverages are usually safe for vegan cocktails, but again, you’ll want to call the company (or check on Barnivore) to verify that the specific type of alcohol you’re using is animal-free.

Here are some super-safe vegan items that you can always trust:

  • Absolut
  • House-made juices (you know exactly what went into them)
  • House-made simple syrup (same reason)
  • Olives
  • Citrus fruits
  • Veggie swizzlers in general

Here are some items you can’t trust:

  • Guinness
  • Barefoot wines
  • Cupcake wines
  • Fetzer red wines
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Drambuie

What can I do to entice vegans into my bar?

When you’ve decided to include vegan items on your menu, you need to get the word out. Many people think that vegans don’t drink, so you can’t just trust that word will spread.

To let vegans in you neighborhood know about your new vegan cocktails, you’ll want to do a large marketing campaign:

  • Put posters up
  • Use table tents and menu inserts
  • Talk up your new vegan cocktails on your social media
  • Create a vegan cocktail special
  • Start a vegan cocktail contest

Whenever you use one of these methods, make sure you include details about what on your menu is vegan, how you know it’s vegan, and what you had to watch out for. You might want to include little “Did You Know?” sidebars on your ads with facts about veganism, so that you’re accepted as an authority. Vegans have dealt with misunderstanding for years, so if you can go that extra step to assure them that you know what they’re looking for, the vegans will begin talking to one another and your bar will become the hot new vegan hangout.

What types of things can you change or have you changed in your bar to make it more vegan-friendly?

Photo licensed by Kerstin Wellekötter