If you have gluten intolerance and enjoy an adult beverage now and then, the good news is that distilled liquors don't contain gluten. The bad news is that many mixes used to make flavored alcoholic beverages do. Many beers also contain gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.
Distilled liquors -- also known as hard liquor -- include brandy, gin, rum and vodka. The process of distillation removes the gluten proteins from the grain alcohol. During distillation, ethanol is volatile, which means it turns into a gas. The gas collects in a tube and turns back into liquid alcohol after cooling. The gluten particles aren't volatile and don't turn into a gas, so they can't pass into the distilled alcohol. Any hard liquor that contains added artificial flavorings or color could contain gluten, however.
Beer contains malt, which comes from barley and contains gluten. Avoid any beer, lager, stout or ale that doesn't specify its gluten-free status on its label. Some manufacturers produce gluten-free beer made from sorghum or other non-gluten sources; others remove gluten from beer made from barley. Some of these beers might still contain small amounts of gluten, so read their labels carefully if your health depends on a diet free of even trace amounts of gluten.
Wine comes from grapes and does not contain gluten unless it becomes contaminated during the manufacturing process. Some manufacturers age wine in oak barrels sealed with flour paste, which could contaminate the wine with gluten. Manufacturers who clarify wine use proteins that could include gluten, but most avoid gluten, as registered dietitian Rachel Begun reports on her website, Ask the Gluten-Free RD. Even if gluten is used, the resulting gluten content would usually be below the safe limit of 20 parts per million, according to Begun. Sherry, Port and Japanese sake are all normally safe to drink if you have gluten intolerance. Call the manufacturer to ask about potential sources of gluten in wine if you have concerns.
Mixed Drinks and Coolers
Wine coolers, hard lemonade and similar bottled drinks usually contain malt, which is a source of gluten. Avoid any bottled coolers unless they're specifically labeled as gluten-free. Drink mixers such as margarita, sour or bloody Mary mixes can also contain wheat flour and gluten. If you can't confirm for yourself that a mixed drink is gluten-free, don't drink it.
- Celiac.com: Gluten-Free Alcoholic Beverages
- The Gluten Free RD: Is Wine Gluten Free?
- The Free Dictionary: Distilled Liquor
- Practical Gastroenterology: Medicines and Celiac Disease: Tips From a Pharmacist
- Gluten Intolerance Group: Quick Start Diet Guide for Celiac Disease
- Boston.com: For People With Celiac, There Is At Least One Great Gluten-free Beer
- Celiac.com: Distilled Spirits (Grain Alcohols) and Vinegar: Are they Gluten-Free?
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