Gluten Free Alcohol: What to Know Before Pouring a Drink
As a follower of the gluten free diet, you already know what buzz words to look for on a food label. Anything that contains wheat, barley, or rye is off the table and you’re used to looking for hidden clues like “malt” as well. When you’re out for a drink with friends, however, not everything has a label.
Unfortunately, most types of alcohol are made from grain, primarily wheat and barley. This makes it a bit more challenging to find something you can drink safely, but it isn’t an impossible task.
Before you hit the town, take the time to learn your options. Wine and brandy are almost always gluten free, as are some hard liquors like rum and tequila. Hard cider is usually a safe bet, but the waters get a little murky when it comes to beer and mixed drinks. Read on to learn what you need know about gluten free alcohol.
What Kind of Alcohol is Gluten Free?
When it comes to alcohol, the most popular categories are beer, wine, and liquor. Gluten free options exist in each of these categories, but you need to know what you’re looking for.
Generally speaking, you should avoid beer unless it’s specifically labeled certified “gluten free”. Beer is traditionally made from barley, water, hops, and yeast, though it can also be made with wheat or rye. Conventional beer may be off limits, but some brands have started to use gluten free grains like sorghum, rice, and millet. You may also see “gluten-removed” beers, but celiac sufferers should be wary of these also because they are treated with an enzyme that breaks down, but doesn’t remove, the gluten protein from barley.
Here are some of the top gluten free beer brands you may want to consider:
- Against the Grain
- Bards Beer
- Brewdog Vagabond Pale Ale
- Drummond Gluten Free
- Ground Breaker Ale
- New Planet Beer
- Sprecher’s Gluten Free Beer
- Nickel Brook Gluten Free
- Two Bays Brewing Co.
- Ramapo Valley Brewery Honey Beer
Though beer is usually not safe, hard cider usually is. Popular brands like Angry Orchard, Woodchuck, and Strongbow are easy to find and some bars even have them on tap. Be wary of other beer alternatives, however, like malt beverages and hard soda – these are almost always made with barley malt.
Hard beverages like these may not be safe:
- Hard soda
- Wine coolers
- Hard lemonade
- Flavored malt beverages
- Hard coffee
- Spiked energy drinks
Liquor is a large category and it includes both safe and unsafe options. Based on the ingredients from which they are distilled, rum and tequila are almost always gluten free – just be wary of flavored rums and premixes. Brandy is also almost always gluten free because it is distilled from wine or fermented fruit mash.
Distilled alcohol is typically made from grains, but it’s up for debate whether any fragments of the gluten protein survive distillation. Some people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity react to grain-based vodkas as well as gin, bourbon, and whiskey, though many do not. To be safe, stick to corn- or potato-based vodkas, sorghum whiskey, and other liquors that are labeled gluten free.
Here are some of the top brands of gluten free liquor:
- Vodka: Blue Ice, Bombora, Cayman, Chopin Polish, Ciroc, Cold River, Kamachatka, New Amsterdam, Smirnoff, Three Olives, Tito’s, Vikingfjord
- Tequila: 1800, Cabo Wabo, Cazadores, Don Julio, El Jimador, Jose Cuervo, Patron, Suaza
- Rum: Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum, Bayou, Bundaberg, Captain Morgan, Cruzan, Mount Gay
- Gin: Cold River, Hendick’s, Aviation, G-Vine, Monopolowa, Schramm Organic
- Other: Campari, Cointreau, Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, Jack Daniel’s, Jagermeister, Jameson Irish Whiskey, Johnnie Walker Scotch, Midori, Samubca
In addition to beer, wine, and liquor that is gluten free, there are also a number of sparkling beverages and canned or bottled cocktails you can enjoy.
Spiked seltzers like White Claw and Truly have become extremely popular not only for being gluten free, but for being low in calories and sugar. MillerCoors has also released a gluten free line of sparkling cocktails with flavors like Blackberry Mojito, Margarita, and Hard Strawberry Lemonade.
Tips for Ordering Mixed Drinks
Because beer is usually off the table, many gluten free followers stick to wine or mixed drinks. When it comes to mixed drinks, there are plenty of classic options to choose from or you can have fun making your own. As long as the liquor and mixers are both gluten free, you have nothing to worry about.
What you need to be careful of with mixed drinks is the use of liqueurs and cordials. Many liqueurs contain grain-based alcohol or other gluten-containing ingredients. Godiva Chocolate Liqueur contains gluten, for example, and both Kahlua and Bailey’s Irish Cream contain grain-based alcohol. Avoid fruit-flavored liqueurs as well because they are often distilled from wheat.
If you’re looking for mixed drinks to order out, it’s generally best to stick to classic combinations made with vodka, rum, or tequila and gluten free mixers. Vodka orange juice (a “Screwdriver”), rum and cola, and tequila sunrise are simple gluten free options you can order at any bar.
7 Safe Mixed Drinks to Try Make Yourself
Knowing what to look for is important whether you’re eating out at a restaurant or ordering a drink at a bar. It never hurts to play it safe but sticking to the same old drink can get boring after a while. If you want to spice things up while minimizing the risk for accidental gluten contamination, try your hand as a bartender at home using ingredients you’ve selected yourself to make sure they’re gluten free.
Here are some tasty mixed drinks made with gluten free ingredients:
1. Skinny Margarita
Shake 2 ounces silver tequila with 1 ½ ounces fresh lime juice, 1 ounce fresh orange juice, and 1 teaspoon light agave nectar. Strain into a salted glass or pour over ice and garnish with a lime wedge.
2. Minty Mojito
Combine 10 mint leaves with a lime wedge in a sturdy glass and muddle to release the juice. Add two lime wedges and 2 tablespoons sugar then muddle a second time. Fill the glass with ice then add 1 ½ ounces white rum and fill the glass the rest of the way with club soda.
3. Rosemary Gin Fizz
Muddle a few sprigs of fresh rosemary with lemon juice and a drizzle of honey in a small glass. Fill the glass with ice then add 1 ½ ounces gluten free gin and top with club soda. Swirl and serve.
4. Simple Sangria
Combine ½ cup brandy, ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, and 1/3 cup each orange juice and frozen lemonade concentrate in a large pitcher. Add a bottle of dry red wine, ½ cup triple sec, and ¼ cup white sugar (if desired. Slice an orange lemon, and lime then add to the pitcher and refrigerate overnight.
5. Ruby Red Cocktail
Combine 8 ounces white tequila with 3 cups ruby red grapefruit juice and the juice of 1 lime. Stir well then serve over ice with slices of ruby red grapefruit to garnish.
6. Aperol Spritz
Fill a wine glass ¾ full of ice. Pour in 2 ounces Aperol liqueur, 2 ounces prosecco, and a splash of club soda. Add an orange slice for garnish and serve.
7. Moscow Mule
Fill a copper mug or small glass ¾ full of ice. Pour in 2 ounces gluten free vodka and squeeze two lime wedges before adding them in. Fill with ginger beer, about 4 ounces, and stir and serve.
Drinking responsibly is always recommended but if you follow a strict gluten free diet, it means being twice as responsible. Not only do you need to moderate how much you drink, but you need to pay special attention to what you drink. The key is to stick to gluten free brands if you’re extremely sensitive to gluten and know what to look for when ordering at a bar.