Gluten Free and Alcohol

This is, believe it or not, a controversial subject. If you don’t drink, no worries. If you do (or have guests who are gluten free and a bit less abstemious than you), read on. It’s time to dispel some myths and clarify some others.

First, in and of itself, alcohol is gluten free. That makes things easier, no?

Er, no.

At the top the list of dangerous for those of us who are GF is beer. As I look back through the fuzzy mirror of time, I know that beer was my harbinger. I loved beer, but every time I drank it, I felt…weird. Not drunk, just, I don’t know, sick. Sneezy. Bad stomach.

I, being practical, switched to wine. I, of course, missed the bigger story.

Beer is mostly your gluten-free enemy. There are gluten-free beers out there, and since I’ve totally lost my taste for beer, I’m waiting for the husband to try them. He’s skeptical. He’s a beer snob, so I get it.

Most GF beers use alternate ingredients — this means no wheat, no barley — including sorghum. This market is growing. But, yes, you still need to be vigilant. Beers like Omission offer a gluten-free beer made from barley that has had the gluten removed. You can make your own choices, but color me a bit skeptical.

Ciders are gluten free (always double check), and they are amazing. I worried they’d be too sweet for my palate, but no. Ciders run the gamut, and I suggest trying a variety to see what you like. Ciders are great beer alternatives.

As I mentioned I’m a wine drinker. As a rule, wine is gluten free. Exceptions may include wines which use wheat as a clarifying agent or as an ingredient in the paste used to seal casks (this is rare in United States-made wines); generally any gluten found in these wines will be well below the 20 PPM threshold set by the FDA.

Of course, your level of sensitivity may vary, so try to find wines aged in stainless steel barrels. If you are very sensitive, also check to see if a gluten-based product is used in the fining — clarification — process. I’ve never had a reaction, and my sensitivity to red wines seems to have passed since I eliminated gluten, but you must pay attention to your body.

Finally, we get to hard alcohols. First, tequilas is safe. No worries. Check the ingredients on mixers, but if you’re bold enough to do a shot of tequila, go for it (I’ll watch from the sidelines!). Rum should also be safe.

Things get weird when it comes to grain-based alcohol, and, for the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to include vodka. Generally, the distilling process removes any gluten that may be present in these alcohols. Or, put another way, the distilling process creates vapor from the alcohol, leaving the mash (gluten-containing ingredients) behind. It seems unlikely that gluten proteins can travel into the finished product.

For most people who are gluten free, vodka, whiskey, gin, Scotch, and bourbon should be safe. As always, double-check mixers and other ingredients.

And if you react to a beverage, don’t drink it. Your body could be reacting to many things, including the alcohol. It’s probably not gluten, but that shouldn’t change the fact that *something* is telling you no to drink that particular product.

I personally don’t react well to hard alcohol. I don’t know if it’s gluten or something else, but my body doesn’t handle these drinks well. I avoid them. But it’s not gluten that is causing my problems

Some Resources:

Gluten-Free Liquor List — Glutenista
The Six Best Gluten-Free Alcohols – Feed Me Phoebe

Tip of the Week

Know your body. This is a theme, and I’m going to keep repeating it. If you feel bad after eating or drinking something, pay attention. It may be an off day, or it may be a clue. I wish I’d paid more attention to the many signals my body gave me years ago!

Menu of the Week

Between you, me, and the wall, gluten-free teriyaki sauce is a bit pricey. Between the three of us, making your own teriyaki takes just minutes. Sake, a Japanese rice wine, adds extra flavor to your teriyaki. Oh, and you can use it for more than chicken. Just in case you were wondering!

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