Are you wondering if there is gluten in alcohol? More specifically, is the cocktail you're sipping gluten-free? The answer is yes, no, and maybe. Here's the info you need to make sure your libation is safe.
*Check out the video - I visited the Garden Bar at AT&T (now Oracle!) Park to talk about gluten in alcohol, because they have fabulous gluten-free options, and GF flatbreads too!
Cocktails + Spirits:
If you're a fan of hard alcohol, I have good news: Unless gluten is added after distillation, all distilled alcohols are gluten-free. That means straight vodka, whiskey, tequila, rum and all the other core spirits are GF. Even if the product is made from gluten-containing grains, the gluten protein is left behind in the distillation process.
Here's the trick: flavored spirits (vanilla vodka, peach schnapps, caramel apple whiskey) have flavors and colors added AFTER they have been distilled. So, plain vodka is gluten-free, but whipped cream vodka may not be. The answer: drink plain distilled spirits or verify flavored spirits are gluten-free.
One more issue: mixers can add gluten. This is especially true with ready-made cocktail mixes like Margarita or Bloody Mary mix. If you prefer mixed drinks, order only real juices or soda with plain alcohol, and avoid garnishes if you think there may be cross-contamination on the limes and lemons. The answer: choose mixers you know are safe.
Some folks with a gluten intolerance say they have a negative reaction to certain types of alcohol. That might be because they have an intolerance to a specific grain, or to a compound or additive present in certain spirits, like citric acid or glycerin. Here's a great article that explains that issue in depth, and here's my list of popular vodka brands and the grains they are distilled from.
Real, honest-to-goodness wine is gluten-free, including champagne, cognac, brandy, vermouth and port. However, wine drinks, bottled spritzers, wine coolers, sangria, and flavored wines can contain all kinds of additives and flavors. (In fact, wine coolers are almost never GF.) You'll want to make sure you're drinking 100% wine, or order a wine drink that's crafted from ingredients you know are safe. The answer: drink 100% wine or wine drinks made with safe ingredients
If you're looking for delish gluten-free sangria, check out the True Temptation blends from San Joaquin Wine Co.
Gluten-Free Beer vs. Gluten-Removed Beer:
There is all kinds of confusion and debate around gluten-free beer, so I'll attempt to make this simple. There are two types of GF beer on the market: gluten-free beer and gluten-removed beer. Gluten-free beer is brewed from non-gluten containing ingredients like buckwheat, sorghum, corn and rice. Gluten-removed beer is brewed from traditional grains like wheat and barley, and then it goes through a process to remove the gluten protein after the beer is brewed, creating what would be more accurately called "gluten reduced" beer. The product is then tested to make sure it contains less than 20ppm of gluten, which meets the FDA guideline, but isn't always enough for highly sensitive folks or those with Celiac disease. The answer: gluten-free beer is the safest bet.
While most hard ciders are fermented from apples, pears and other fruits, some have added barley or flavorings that aren't gluten-free. Be sure to look for an ingredient statement and gluten-free labeling when purchasing ciders, and ask bartenders or servers if they know for certain that the cider they're offering is indeed GF. The answer: make sure ciders are gluten-free.
That's the story on gluten in alcohol. Cheers, GF citizens - and Go Giants! xo - KC