Bread, pasta, pizza and even soy sauce are usually a no-go if you're on a gluten-free diet. But while you may need to skip some of the food options, alcohol is probably a safe choice.
Some alcoholic drinks are naturally gluten-free, like potato vodka or grape wine. These liquors are formulated without any of the gluten-containing grains, including wheat, rye and barley, according to the University of Chicago Medicine.
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Other types of liquor, like whiskey, are made with gluten-containing grains — but when these drinks are distilled, the gluten proteins are removed from the liquor in the process, so the finished product is safe to drink on a GF diet, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation.
But which liquors fall under this category? And which are still unsafe to drink? Read on to learn the ins and outs of gluten-free liquor.
Even though this liquor is made of wheat, rye or barley, plain distilled whiskey is generally gluten-free and safe to sip, according to Beyond Celiac.
However, plain is the operative word here. Flavored whiskeys or whiskey with additives may not necessarily be safe to drink. Brands that add coloring or flavor may contain gluten ingredients.
If you want to be certain your whiskey is free of gluten, look for a Gluten-Free label on the packaging. For any packaged food or beverage you're drinking, this FDA-regulated label signifies that the product contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, which is a safe amount even for people with celiac disease.
Another type of distilled liquor, pure scotch is generally gluten-free, according to Beyond Celiac.
As with whiskey, you'll want to double-check that the scotch you buy is free of any added ingredients. Or, look for a GF label on the bottle.
Although it's usually made with wheat, rye or barley, pure vodka is distilled, which deems it a gluten-free drink, according to Beyond Celiac. In some cases, vodka may even be made with potatoes, which are naturally gluten-free.
Just watch out for flavored vodkas, as those can contain gluten. Visit the vodka brand's website or contact the manufacturer to find out if the flavored vodka you're eyeing contains gluten.
Gin is another distilled liquor, so it's safe to drink even though it's made of wheat, rye or barley, according to Beyond Celiac.
There are plenty of infused gins on the market, though, so before you experiment with a flavored variety, check for a gluten-free label on the packaging or check the brand's website.
Thanks to the distillation process, bourbon is another gluten-free liquor, despite that it's made with wheat, barley or rye, according to Beyond Celiac.
However, some bourbon varieties are infused with flavor, like cocoa or smoked maple. In this case, you'll want to check the ingredient list for any gluten contaminants, check for a Gluten-Free label on the packaging or contact the manufacturer.
Pure brandy is naturally gluten-free, as it's made by distilling wine, grapes, plums or other fruit, according to Beyond Celiac.
However, some cognacs (a type of brandy) may contain gluten-containing flavorings or additives, which can pose a problem for those with gluten sensitivity or intolerance. If you're buying a cognac, look for a bottle that's free of flavors or additives or is labeled gluten-free.
Rum is naturally gluten-free, as it's made with sugarcane molasses or sugarcane juice, according to Beyond Celiac. But that doesn't mean every bottle of rum is safe to drink.
There are plenty of novelty rum brands that add ingredients — like chocolate, coconut or coffee flavoring — after the distillation process is complete. So, unless you're buying unflavored rum, verify that your drink of choice is free of gluten.
Tequila is a naturally gluten-free alcohol that's made with the blue agave plant, according to Beyond Celiac. Some tequilas are "mixtos," which means they're not 100 percent agave and are combined with other added sugars — even these varieties are usually free of gluten, too.
Although tequila is gluten-free, that doesn't mean flavored tequila or tequila drinks (like pre-mixed margaritas) are free of contaminants. Even if you're certain the drink you're buying contains no gluten, give the ingredient list a second look.
Whereas the liquors above are pretty cut and dry when it comes to gluten content, liqueur isn't quite so straightforward. Pure distilled liqueur is considered gluten-free — even if it's made with wheat, barley or rye — according to Beyond Celiac.
However, many liqueurs aren't pure, explains dietitian Shena Jaramillo, RD. Most liqueurs have added flavors and ingredients, which often contain barley malt.
Watch Out for Mixed Drinks and Wine Coolers
Mixed drinks, like margaritas, hard lemonade, as well as wine coolers, aren't always gluten-free, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. Even dessert wine often has flavors added, despite that wine itself is usually gluten-free.
For these drinks, you'll want to check the ingredient list and product label before you buy. "Looking for additives and other gluten-containing products can tell us whether or not the flavored liquor is gluten-free," Jaramillo says.
How to Order Liquor Safely
Even though most liquor is technically gluten-free, it's still possible to have a gluten-related reaction to the alcohol you drink. This is likely due to the ingredients added after the alcohol is distilled, Jaramillo explains.
So, it's best to purchase pure alcohol, steering clear of different flavors or mixers. At the store, check for hidden gluten by reading the ingredient list and finding a gluten-free label on the bottle.
Mix your own cocktails at home to avoid any uncertainty with pre-mixed drinks at restaurants. Opting for a bottle of wine is another safe bet, Jaramillo says.
- University of Chicago Medicine: "What Alcohol is Gluten-Free?"
- Celiac Disease Foundation: "Sources of Gluten"
- Beyond Celiac: "Is Whiskey Gluten-Free?"
- FDA: "Gluten and Food Labeling"
- Beyond Celiac: "Is Scotch Gluten-Free?"
- Beyond Celiac: "Is Vodka Gluten-Free?"
- Gluten Intolerance Group: "About Us"
- Beyond Celiac: "Is Gin Gluten-Free?"
- Celiac Disease Foundation: "Is Bourbon Gluten-Free?"
- Celiac Disease Foundation: "Is Brandy Gluten-Free?"
- Beyond Celiac: "Is Rum Gluten-Free?"
- Beyond Celiac: "Is Tequila Gluten-Free?"
- Beyond Celiac: "Is Liqeur Gluten-Free?"