Carrot coladas: Vegan happy hour, anyone?

A cool, refreshing reminder that social drinking and factory farming need not go hand in hand

A short list of cocktails that are not vegan: Irish coffee, anything involving Drambuie or Martini and Rossi vermouth, cheese-garnished Bloody Marys. (Thanks Barnivore.)

This spring, I interviewed six SF vegans on the state of animal product-free lifestylin' out here in the Bay. They agreed it was all pretty awesome, given the kitchen creativity and commitment to healthy eating that lives out here. But they identified one thing that our hills and valleys are lacking: a strong sense of vegan community. 

And what's a better community builder than alcohol?A vegan -- and thus more hardcore -- version of worldwide sustainability boozery crew Green Drinks, Vegan Drinks SF has been gathering up meat-defeaters for the past two years, dumping them (with fair notice) on the city's watering holes for a vegan cocktail special, scintillating mingling opportunities, and drunken event announcements to cap the whole thing off. This week, there's a meet-up at Martuni's on Thurs/30. We caught up with Elizabeth Castoria, the managing editor of Vegan Drinks progenitor VegNews, to find out more about the phenomenon. 

Ah, and if you're really feeling the concept, you might try meat-free speed dating.


San Francisco Bay Guardian: How many meetings of Vegan Drinks SF have there been? 

Elizabeth Castoria: We started in February of 2009, and typically skip the months of November and December because since Vegan Drinks is always held on the last Thursday of the month, those two months tend to get swallowed by the holidays. If my math's right, that's 25 meetings so far. 


SFBG: Are the drinks specifically vegan? I know that animal products tend to lurk in alcoholic beverages when you least expect them.

EC: The nice thing is that the vast majority of hard liquor is vegan (it's much more common to find beer and wine that's been processed with animal byproducts). Our monthly drink special changes up, but it's always a liquor-based martini. 


SFBG: Who are the Vegan Drinkers? How many people came to the last event? 

EC: We don't take tickets at the door or anything, but about 50 were in attendance at the last event. The group usually ranges between around 50-ish people to 75-ish, and it's a real mix. Most are probably between the ages of 25 and 55, and the personalities are diverse, as in any group. Most are professionals who come right from work. 


SFBG: Why Martuni's for this one? Does the place have a special vegan allegiance? 

EC: When we were scouting out places, Martuni's seemed like a really good fit because it has a fairly spacious back room that's semi-private. Skip, the owner, has been really wonderful about coming up with creative drink specials every month. He also happens to have both a popcorn popper and a really adorable little hot dog cart, and he went out and got us a bunch of vegan hot dogs, buns, and condiments that sold for $1. It's wonderful to partner with someone who's so enthusiastic! 


SFBG: And knowing Martuni's, there will be some amazing lounge act in the back room...

EC: Ha! Not intentionally. Though Martuni's martinis are notoriously strong, so after a few, you never know! We do, however, have a brief announcement period at the end of every event so that anyone who has a project or opportunity to share has the chance to do so. 


SFBG: Drunk events announcements, love it. Why'd you start Vegan Drinks? 

EC: Vegan Drinks as an idea actually started in New York in 2008. When our staff started seeing photos from their events that looked like way too much fun, we got jealous. So we started our own chapter! The point is just to create a space for people to come together, spend time among like-minded folks, and hang out. It purposefully doesn't have an agenda beyond "let's have drinks and chat" because so often events are fundraisers, or outreach, or festivals, or readings, or something else that involves a level of obligation, and it's really nice to just get together with people in the community and hang out without any pressure. 


SFBG: Have you seen any interesting animal product-free collaborations spring up out of these meetings? What are the hot vegan conversation topics that people are mingling over these days?

EC: Certainly some networking happens, and some projects have come from that. For example, even with Vegan Drinks itself, we started organizing the events, and then connected with the Vegansaurus bloggers, and now we co-sponsor the event with them. In terms of hot topics, food is a nearly ubiquitous theme at vegan gatherings. New restaurants, places people have eaten recently for the first time and had either good or bad experiences, new recipes people are experimenting with and those kinds of things definitely come up.


(Carrot colada photo by Wendall T. Webber via Food & Drink)


Vegan Drinks

Thurs/28 6-8 p.m., free with purchase of drink 


4 Valencia, SF

(415) 241-0205


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