How to Choose Gluten-Free Alcohol Products - dummies

How to Choose Gluten-Free Alcohol Products

By Nancy McEachern

Some alcoholic beverages are unsafe for people on a gluten-free diet. These popular products are among the beverages to avoid: beers made from barley (unless they’re deglutenized), malt beverages (like wine coolers), and beverages with barley-based flavorings (such as some teas).

However, the list of alcohol you can drink on a gluten-free diet is actually pretty long, and it includes a growing list of gluten-free beers. Here are some of the most popular gluten-free alcoholic beverages:

  • Gluten-free beer: Most beers are made from barley and therefore contain gluten, but a growing list of gluten-free beer comes from sorghum, rice, corn, buckwheat, or other gluten-free grains.

    Some new beers on the market are made from barley, but through a process similar to distillation, the gluten is removed. These beers are called deglutenized beers. Whether you feel comfortable trying these beers or prefer to stick to beers made from gluten-free grains is a personal choice that probably depends on the severity of your body’s response to gluten.

  • Hard cider: Ciders that don’t contain barley as a flavoring are gluten-free.

  • Rum: Most rums are made from sugar cane, which is gluten-free.

  • Tequila: Tequila is made with the gluten-free blue agave plant.

  • Wine and champagnes: Nearly all wines and champagnes (sparkling wines) are gluten-free because they’re made from grapes.

Gluten is included in some flavorings, which contaminates otherwise gluten-free beverages, so always read labels and check specific brand websites to verify gluten-free status — even on products that are known to be predominately gluten-free. Contact the manufacturer if you’re unsure of the gluten content in your favorite beverage.

In addition to the naturally gluten-free adult beverages, some liquor that’s made from gluten-containing grains can be gluten-free due to the distillation process, which removes the gluten. So as long as these liquors are distilled and the gluten-containing mash isn’t added back into the spirits, these beverages are also on the gluten-free party list:

  • Vodka: Most vodka is made from potato or corn. Some vodkas are made from glutenous grains, but vodkas are distilled, which removes the gluten. Yet some celiac specialists recommend sticking with the potato and corn-based versions to ensure safety.

  • Whiskey: Most whiskey is made from glutenous grains, but it’s still considered gluten-free because whiskey is distilled. However, if the gluten-containing mash is added back into the whiskey (which is uncommon), then this beverage is definitely not gluten-free. Contact the distiller if you have questions about its products.