# How to know if a meal was cooked with or contains alcohol?

In the restaurants that I have been to, the menus usually indicate if an item has things like peanuts, eggs, is vegetarian, or contains raw meat.

In some Asian restaurants, menu items are also given a "spicy" rating; for those not accustomed to the palette.

Is there such a symbol to indicate if a meal was prepared with or contains alcohol?

• Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – RoflcoptrException Oct 17 '16 at 20:32
• +1 I like the question, but doesn't it boil off in cooking so you don't get a buzz? – Gayot Fow Oct 17 '16 at 21:24
• @GayotFow In certain religious contexts is still forbidden even if the alcohol has technically boiled off. – David Grinberg Oct 17 '16 at 21:48
• @GayotFow No, that's an urban myth (see the chat thread). – Joe Oct 17 '16 at 21:51
• @GayotFow Related: Cooking away alcohol on cooking.se. – CodesInChaos Oct 18 '16 at 8:53

## 7 Answers

I have never seen such an icon. The only way to know is to ask for it. Common sense is that in a lot of countries where alcohol is prohibited by religion or not really within the local culture, you won't find it in cooking. Now, in other countries where alcohol is strong in the local culture, it will be used in the cooking and will never be specified as it is kind of obvious for cooks, like the use of spice in Asia.

• Yep, local culture is going to be a big part of it. If you go to Sicily, I would assume that anything and everything is cooked with alcohol unless you are specifically told that it is not. Pakistan, not so much. – Robert Columbia Oct 17 '16 at 14:32
• @RobertColumbia What about the US? – jpmc26 Oct 19 '16 at 1:25
• @RobertColumbia Re: Sicily. No, it's not and it does not make sense to cook everything with alcohol. You have a very simplistic view. – Toni Toni Chopper Oct 20 '16 at 8:30
• Actually I just returned from Turkey and the in-room dining menu at the Swissotel indicated meals cooked with or containing alcohol with a alch indicator. – Burhan Khalid Dec 14 '16 at 5:40

It varies a lot, largely depending on where you travel to. I have definitely seen some menus with alcohol symbols next to some dishes to indicate that they're cooked with e.g. red wine. Most of these I have seen in France, a country with a long alcohol tradition but also a large Muslim population.

However, it is still not the norm, and most places you must carefully read the descriptions of the food and ask the waiting staff. If you are going somewhere that you not speak the language, my advice is to make a little card that explains what you can and can't eat in the local language, and give that to the waiting staff.

• Would it be possible to add a picture of the sort of alcohol symbols you have seen? – Thunderforge Oct 17 '16 at 18:52
• @Thunderforge I was hoping to, but I couldn't find any online. I didn't take pictures when I was in the restaurants I mentioned (and I have since forgotten which restaurants...). I'll keep my eyes open though and post an edit if I find one. – rturnbull Oct 17 '16 at 20:55
• @Thunderforge: I have seen wine glass and wine bottle icons used. – PLL Oct 18 '16 at 9:06
• Unless it is specifically certified Halal, it may contain alcohol. Milkshakes are the classic example, and any soft drink with the label "brewed". Some drinks do not have to declare below certain limits, until recently beer was considered soft drink in Russia. In Australia light beer below 1.5% by volume (Swan light = 0.9%) is not considered an alcoholic beverage, but is cetainly not Halal. – mckenzm Oct 20 '16 at 5:11

The meals are labeled for a reason.

• Peanuts, milk, regular grains are labeled because of allergic (posible lethal) reactions of some people.
• Raw meat is labeled because of possible health issues. Some people may have problems with digesting unprocessed meat or they are supersuspicious of salmonela.
• Meat, eggs, vegetarian, vegan are labeled because some people are militant about their food. may be they are that strict that they would have healt problems to digest unusual (for them) natural (for the rest of the world) food.
• Spicy foods are labeled because of (significant) ammount of capsaicin and some people's mouth would be blown off.

According to alcohol, I think it does matter why the alcohol contamination is subject of the question.

• Asker is allergic to ethanol. Well, in that case, do what anybody with unusual allergy do: Ask a waiter. Whether the food contain alcohol; what he would rescommend if someone is allergic to alcohol, etc. Note that yeast-based foods contain alcohol as a byproduct of rising; sugar in fruits tend to frement their fructose content to ethanol.
• Asker is alcoholic on a vacation. When preparing a meal one process 1 kg of meat, add water, spices (unsignificant ammount in total), vegetables etc. Suppose we get 1.1 kg of meal (the loss due to water evaporation) and you add 0.2 kg of wine, which contain 0.024 kg of alcohol. The meal now contains 2.1 % of alcohol. On the table you are served a portion of, say, 45 % of "meat", 45 % of mashed potatoes and 10 % of raw vegetables. The total amount of alcohol contamination is lower than 1 %. I do not think that it is the amount that will bring the adiction back.
• Askers religion forbids alcohol. If your religion tolerate accidental or unwillingfull violation, then why does it matter? If you do know that flambé is prepared using alcohol, don't order it. If you do not know that fondue you have ordered is made using wine, who is there to blame you? If your religion forbids even this, do it as if you were allergic: Ask.

If there would be enough people asking whether their food contains alcohol, there would be a reference or sign for it. Otherwise, there is no need for it.

While it seems practical to indicate whether alcohol is present in a meal or not, I haven't seen the presence of alcohol indicated on restaurant menus in Sydney.

And Sydney is a place that would be as likely as many to indicate such a thing. In Australian supermarkets, there tends to be a lot of information about foodstuffs, so you can often find out whether food contains any allergens, and whether it has any religious certifications. Some Australian restaurants get themselves certified as halal, mainly Indian restaurants, but I've also seen western-style fast food chains offering halal food (Oporto). Some restaurants also indicate whether they have allergens in their food. Also, Sydney has a higher proportion of Muslims than other parts of Australia. So if Sydney restaurants don't indicate the presence of alcohol, I'd speculate that only places with a very large or a very concentrated Muslim population (such as France, mentioned by rturnbull) would indicate such things.

As a heads up, there is some antipathy in some countries towards food labelling in general, and towards halal in particular, and people are likely to assume if you're asking about alcohol that you're a practising Muslim. While I wouldn't expect the staff to be rude to you, some fellow patrons of the restaurants might.

Try asking, you'll be surprised, I think here in the UK most restaurants are required by law to keep a list/table of the ingredients.

Last time I went to PAUL Bakery, Patisserie, Café and Restaurant they had no problem with showing me that spreadsheet of ingredients for each item they sell and I could easily tell which one had alcohol in it.

• And did they show you the spreadsheet of the ingredients and the production chain of every ingredient on the ingredients spreadshet, and so on? How do you know that the brand of whatever ingredient they use do not use alcohol in the treatment of that? – motoDrizzt Oct 17 '16 at 9:19
• @DavidRicherby: Onions? Do you mean, those things that in restaurants, for ease of use, are often bought in can where they are submerged in vinegar? Vinegar that actually contains from 1 to 1.5% of alcohol? – motoDrizzt Oct 17 '16 at 13:23
• @motoDrizzt Muslims have no problems with vinegar. Coke, Pepsi and now vinegar?! What else have alcohol in it? Bananas? – Ulkoma Oct 17 '16 at 13:30
• @Ulkoma apparently, bananas do have alcohol in them: sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0960852495001778 – phoog Oct 17 '16 at 15:18
• @DavidRicherby some flavourings are alcohol extractions (the most common probably being vanilla extract). The ingredients of such ingredients often aren't specified – Chris H Oct 18 '16 at 9:54

As I guess you are asking this because you are Muslim, I'd strongly suggest you to ask for safer and better information on islam.SE and cooking.se

That said:

1. What you want is obviously halal food, so search for the halal label and for restaurants that serves halal food. In some places you will have no other choice but to eat the "usual stuff" you can find at home, while in many other nations you'll be able to find local Halal dishes. As I don't eat fish or meat I often have dinner in "non mainstream/touristic" restaurants, and I've been really surprised to find tons of places where halal food is clearly indicated in the menu

2. As of today there are minuscule quantities of alcohol in almost everything, even in non alcoholic drinks like Coke and Pepsi (there are studies about it and there has even been a common concern from Islamic community all around the world) and even in simple fruit juice. So, from this point of view...it is a bit of a mess. That's the reason for point 1: halal food grants you the most acceptable lack of alcohol, even if you are searching for "non alcoholic" food for whatever the reason apart from religion. Bakery products more often than not contains alcohol, for example if they are vanilla flavoured (the most common) or have other kinds of flavourin that use alcohol as a base for their production. Or you maybe be eating bread produced with yeast containing alcohol...unless you have the chance to check every step of the production and the conservation of each ingredient you can't rule out alcohol, but if a food is declared halal...hopefully, someone took the time to check all of the chain.

3. I'm not a Muslim, so PLEASE take the following with a bit of grain of salt and ask on islam.SE: while alcohol is haram, I heard there is a small difference between alcohol as a pure chemical substance and alcohol as a drinking substance like wine, spirits, and such. If I remember correctly Quran forbid "Kham'r" and intoxication, not directly alcohol per se, so there are (at least, I heard of it) some opening on the controlled use of alcohol in certain situation (like food and medicals, for example). But again, I'm not the person you should ask for suggestions on Islam, just use those information to be able to do a better research in better places :-)

• -1 from me, he didn't ask about Halal food, Coke and Pepsi have no alcohol in them, he is not after a Fatwa and this question certainly belongs here... also there are Muslims here – Ulkoma Oct 17 '16 at 8:02
• @Ulkoma - Coke and Pepsi do have a very small, but measurable amount of alcohol in them. Also reported here. Coke doesn't exactly deny it saying only that they don't add alcohol and that no fermentation takes place, but they don't come out and say that it has no measurable amounts of alcohol. – Johnny Oct 18 '16 at 6:01
• @Johnny - anything made from fruit or vegetable extracts is likely to contain trace quantities of alcohol. Yeast grows on plants. It contaminates production processes, begins fermentation while the produce is in storage, so small amounts end up in the result. If you want to entirely avoid alcohol, you'll find it very difficult to achieve. – Periata Breatta Oct 18 '16 at 16:41
• While it's possible that the OP is asking because he's a Muslim, there are plenty of non-Muslims who do not consume alcohol for a variety of reasons. I know many Baptists who refuse to consume alcohol for religious reasons. I know people who refuse to consume alcohol for health reasons. My college-age son does not consume alcohol because, he says, if he has zero, then he doesn't have to worry about becoming a drunk. Even if the OP is Muslim, an answer could be useful to non-Muslims who do not want to consume alcohol. – Mark Daniel Johansen Oct 19 '16 at 15:30
• For the record, I am not asking because I am a Muslim. – Burhan Khalid Oct 23 '16 at 5:41

While it is uncommon to see it depicted as an icon throughout a menu, I have seen it done before in cafeteria-style settings, where menu items are rotated in and out on a frequent basis.

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