I had an interesting conversation with a customer the other day regarding gluten free alcoholic beverages and it was quite eye-opening. People who want gluten-free beverages come in all shapes and sizes. From individuals with Celiac, a gluten sensitivity or dietary restrictions such as Paleo, we have customers looking for libation options.
In having a conversation with a friend of mine who has Celiac I had to ask her what exactly what it is. I mean, most of us know that Celiac is an intolerance to gluten but what the heck is gluten? Gluten is a tiny protein in wheat, barley and rye that makes it hard for those with Celiac or a gluten sensitivity to get the vitamins and nutrients one needs to grow and stay strong and healthy. It is damaging to your intestines and can cause a host of other health problems.
Since alcoholic beverages can’t be considered an essential food group (sarcasm) we all make choices regarding our beverages of choice but those with health or dietary issues surrounding gluten must make their choices more carefully. And how does one do that when most alcoholic beverages use base grains fermented to create said spirit and the predominant grains used include wheat, barley and rye or derivatives of such grains?
The easiest step to take when deciding which spirit to consume is to choose those created with something other than wheat, barley, or rye. The short list includes rum, tequila and vodka made with corn, potatoes or grapes, wine, cognac, and brandy.
Rum is typically made from cane sugar, tequila from 100% Agave, and wine, cognac and brandy are made from grapes. There are vodkas made from corn, potatoes and grapes which are also gluten free, but must be distinguished from their brethren made from wheat, barley, or rye. Flavored spirits also need to be approached with caution and it would be best to contact manufacturers to see if the added flavors have gluten in them.
There is a theory out there that gluten “disappears” in the distillation process and all spirits are distilled. US standard says that there can be no more than 20 gluten parts per million present in a spirit to be considered gluten free. I have yet to see very many grain based spirits claim gluten-free on their label. Perhaps there is the tiniest trace amount left behind and perhaps the PPM is above 20 and risking a health occurrence because of that isn’t something distilleries are willing to risk. Whatever the reason, I do have customers who are Celiac or gluten sensitive who drink certain bourbons and whiskeys and don’t seem to have a problem.
Ultimately whether you are Celiac, gluten-sensitive or have just decided to remove gluten from your diet just be safe and do what is best for you. The below suggestions are by no means everything available, just solid suggestions.
Tito’s Vodka (corn)
Stoli Gluten Free (corn & buckwheat)
Tequila (any non-flavored with 100% Agave on the label)
Whiskey and Gin
According to most Celiac Disease experts, most whiskey is safe. Even though they are typically made from gluten grains they are removed to 20 PPM. HOWEVER – everyone reacts differently to gluten so drink whiskey at your own risk. The same goes for Gin and in particular for extremely sensitive gluten free folks.
Brandy and Cognac (non-flavored)
Fun Spirits that are Gluten Free