I’ve always had a bit of an aversion to foods marketed as healthy. Not only do I run from fat-free, but things labeled for specific dietary needs instantly fall off my list. A gluten-free brownie? No thanks! But, shifting my thinking from what something is missing and focusing instead on who can enjoy it, has helped my biased thinking. As a pescatarian for more than a decade, I have thought about vegetarian and vegan cocktails. While dietary needs don’t affect my cocktail selections much, there are things to consider like some fat-washed spirits, mixers with gelatin, and candied bacon. For vegan diets, there are even more things to consider, but still plenty of delicious options.
With the exception of cream- and honey-based liquors, most every alcoholic spirit is vegan. Fun fact, most are also gluten-free despite being grain-based as distilling removes the gluten proteins. I’ve partnered with Zen Donkey Farms, whose sales help support donkey rescue efforts, to bring you this delicious post. And, if you are vegan and have questions, Barnivore is a great resource to check individual alcoholic ingredients. Let’s make some vegan cocktails that everyone can enjoy!
A Few Things You’ll Need to Make Vegan Cocktails
Vegan Juices and Mixers
A key to delicious cocktails is to have a great base flavor. This can come from your spirit choice or a tasty fresh juice or juice blend. As a long-time fan of Zen Donkey Farms juices, I have often sipped their healthy blends while dreaming up alcoholic pairings. (I’m sure I am not the only one.) When they introduced a new summer flavor, Pico’s Punch, made with watermelon, strawberry, lemon, and mint, I contacted them about writing this post. For anyone reading in the Kansas City area, Zen Donkey Farms delivers to your doorstep – so check them out. If you don’t live in the Kansas City area, look for a local fresh pressed juice vendor in your community, or you can make your own.
Other Vegan Cocktail Ingredients
While things like honey, egg whites, and mixers with gelatin are off the table, there are so many other ingredients that are easy to find. Make sure you have some simple syrups and agave for sweetness. If you like straws in your drinks, many vegans abstain from using plastic straws as they contribute to oceanic pollution that affects wildlife. Alternatives include biodegradable straws from sugarcane, and reusable metal straws. And, if foam-topped cocktails are your thing, a can of chickpeas whose liquid, known as aquafaba, is a stand-in for egg whites.
Vegan Cocktails Everyone will Love
Donkey Dreams of Machu Picchu
All of Zen Donkey Farms juices find their naming inspiration from the donkeys that have been supported by the charitable work of the business. Or just by things donkeys love, like Greener Pastures and a Bray of Sunshine. For the first vegan cocktail, I wanted to use a spirit that is found in a country where donkeys are present. I decided to use pisco from Peru and mix it with Donkey Dreams. This refreshing sip brings together the earthiness of carrot juice with the taste of fermented grapes. This might sound weird but it really works. If you’re not familiar with pisco, it’s a fermented grape spirit brought to Peru by the Spanish in the 16th-century. It’s fairly easy to find, or you could substitute for grappa.
Donkey Dreams of Machu Picchu
- 4 oz Donkey Dreams juice (carrot, zucchini, apple, lemon, ginger)
- 2 oz pisco
- 1 oz ginger liqueur (like Domaine de Canton)
- Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake until the shaker is frosty.
- Strain and serve in a wine glass with large ice.
Pico’s Sneaky Punch
Pico’s Punch is a seasonal offering from Zen Donkey Farms. When I spotted it in their Instagram feed, it sparked the idea for this vegan cocktail post. This juice is quintessential summer featuring watermelon and strawberry juice. To me, the perfect pairing for one of my favorite spirits, mezcal. If you are new to mezcal, its smoky flavor might catch you off guard. Oftentimes, when I order a mezcal cocktail the bartender will ask if I have had it before. This is certainly not to scare you off, it just might take your tastebuds a little to get used to. This cocktail is light on the smokiness and is the perfect introduction to a spirit made of roasted agave hearts.
Pico’s Sneaky Punch
- 3 oz Pico's Punch (watermelon, strawberry, lemon, mint)
- 1.5 oz mezcal
- 0.25 oz agave
- 1 pinch pink sea salt
- Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake until cold.
- Strain into a glass of crushed ice and serve with a fresh sprig of mint.
When I am creating cocktails, I usually make small versions so I don’t waste ingredients. (For more on how to create your own signature cocktail, check out this post.) However, I just had a feeling that this recipe would work on the first try and I was pleasantly surprised that it did. If you love tiki drinks or want to be transported to a tropical place, this is the drink for you. It’s not too sweet but its slightly nutty undertones will have you swaying with the breeze. Plus, the color is just incredible thanks to the blue algae in the juice.
- 3 oz Paradise juice (pineapple, lemon, dandelion greens, blue algae)
- 2 oz white or light rum
- 1 oz orgeat
- If you are using Luxardo Orgeat syrup, dilute one part orgeat to four parts water.
- Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake until a light foam forms.
- Strain into a glass with a large ice cube and garnish with an edible flower.
Jenny’s Derby Julep
This cocktail combines two drinks I love, a mint julep and a brown derby. It marries bourbon and grapefruit into one delicious sip. I love how simple this is but how good it tastes. The Pamplemousse liqueur really brings out the best of the grapefruit juice in Jenny’s Julep and adds the right amount of sweetness. If you don’t have any of this liqueur, you could use grapefruit soda or a grapefruit beer, like Stiegl-Radler. (Also, special thanks to Coolton’s Cocktails for my sweet custom coasters!)
Jenny’s Derby Julep
- 3 oz Jenny's Julep juice (grapefruit, green apple, mint, Himalayan sea salt)
- 1.5 oz bourbon
- 0.75 oz Pamplemousse liqueur
- Add ingredients to a shaker with ice.
- Shake until cold, strain into a low ball glass with ice, and serve.
Egg white cocktails used to be the biggest hurdle in the vegan cocktails arena. Then along came aquafaba, or chickpea juice. Using a tablespoon of aquafaba is the equivalent volume and foaming agent as an egg white. It doesn’t taste like much (as long as you buy the unsalted kind, lesson learned) and it holds up well. This cocktails looks extra gorgeous thanks to the beet juice in Earl’s Elixer and the matching flower I found at the farmers market.
- 2 oz Earl's Elixir juice (cucumber, beet, apple, lemon, ginger)
- 2 oz tequila
- 1 oz tonic water
- 1 Tbsp aquafaba
- Add juice, tequila, and aquafaba to a shaker. Dry shake (without ice) for 20 seconds.
- Add a small amount of ice (4-6 standard cubes) to the shaker and shake for 20 more seconds.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass until half full. Spoon foam remaining in the shaker to the top of the cocktail, add the tonic water, and serve.
And there you have it. Five delicious vegan cocktails that will not only meet most everyone’s needs. They are light and refreshing and I think you’ll love them. Let me know what you try and what you think of them. Cheers!