Thirsty Thursday: Gluten Free Alcohol

June 9, 2011

While most individuals with Celiac disease or gluten/wheat intolerance know that beer is on the no-no list due to the extensive use of barley malt, there are a lot of other gluten-containing alcoholic beverages that you need to watch out for! While provides a list of "safe" alcoholic drinks, it's important to remember that while in general "Vodka" as a category is safe, this is not true 100% across all brands.

It is always a surprise to read that wheat-based vodka, gin or malt-mash based whiskey and bourbon are gluten free because the gluten is broken down during the distillation process and, once distilled, test as such. Here's where things get tricky: while these alcohols are inherently gluten free, flavors, colors and other additives that are incorporated after the distillation process may not be. Just as malt- and wheat-based additives are common as flavor enhancers in other foods, the same is true for alcohol. At one point, I remember reading that Stolichnaya Flavored Vodkas contain gluten -- in the additional, post-distillation flavorings. Irish Cream is a perfect example of variation across brands:

Here's the official statement on gluten from Bailey's Irish Cream Liqueur:

"Please be advised that the whiskey used in Baileys is manufactured by fermenting grain which contains Gluten. Due to the presence of gluten in the whiskey components before distillation we cannot absolutely guarantee that there are no effects to coeliacs. As we are not qualified to give medical advice persons requiring a gluten free diet should consult their medical adviser before consuming Baileys."

Confusing, right? We know that the grains (mash) used to create whiskey are not gluten free before distillation, but after testing different batches and types of liquor, there is no evidence to show that alcohol distilled from gluten-containing grains actually contain gluten. My issue with Bailey's is that they won't provide information on the flavorings, preservatives and ingredients added to the whiskey after distillation. On the other hand, Carolans and St. Brendan's freely state on their FAQ page:

"Carolans is suitable for Celiacs and is both gluten and wheat free."

"Q: Is Saint Brendan's Irish Cream Liqueur gluten-free?
A: Yes. Saint Brendan's Irish Cream Liqueur is gluten-free." List of Gluten Free Alcoholic Beverages:
  • Armagnac - made from grapes.
  • Beer - A number of premium and craft brewers now produce specialty grain gluten-free beers using non-gluten ingredients such as buckwheat, sorghum, rice, corn, etc. Not all the beers listed below use specialty grains, and some of them have had the gluten removed using special filters and/or enzymes, and in such cases they may not be 100% gluten-free (although each claims to test below 20 PPM gluten).
    • Against the Grain, World Top Brewery (United Kingdom)
    • Bards Tale Dragons Gold, Bard's Tale Beer Company (USA)
    • BeerUp Glutenfrei, Grieskirchen (Austria)
    • Birra 76 Bi-Aglut, Heineken Italy (Italy)
    • Blonde (also Ginger and Apple Beers), Billabong Brewing (Australia)
    • Daura, Estrella Damm (Spain)
    • G-Free, St. Peter's Brewery (United Kingdom)
    • Green's Endeavour Dubble, Green's (United Kingdom)
    • Koff I, Sinebrychoff (Finland)
    • Lammsbräu, Neumarkter (Germany)
    • Messagère, Les bières de la Nouvelle-France (Canada)
    • Mongozo's exotic flavorded pilsners (The Netherlands)
    • New Grist, Lakefront Brewery (USA)
    • Nodogoshi, Kirin (Japan)
    • O'Brien Brown Ale, O'Brien Brewery (Australia)
    • Passover Honey Beer, Ramapo Valley (USA)
    • RedBridge, Anheuser-Busch (USA)
    • Residenz Bio-Reis-Gold Dunkel, Liebharts (Germany)
    • Schnitzer Bräu (Germany)
    • Sorghum Molasses Brown, Outer Banks (USA)
    • Toleration, Hambleton (United Kingdom)
    • Tread Lightly Ale and 3R Raspberry Ale, New Planet (USA)
    • Tumma Kukko, Laitilan (Finland)
  • Bourbon - Makers Mark
  • Brandy
  • Champagne
  • Cider - fermented from apples or other fruits. Some are safe, however, many add barley for enzymes and flavor.
    • Old Deadly Cider
  • Cognac - made from grapes.
  • Gin
  • Grappa
  • Kahlua
  • Kirschwasser (cherry liqueur)
  • Margarita Mix:
    • Jose Cuervo.
    • Mr. & Mrs. T.
  • Martini:
    • Club Extra Dry Martini (corn & grape).
    • Club Vodka Martini (corn & grape).
  • Mead - distilled from honey.
  • Mistico:
    • Jose Cuervo Mistico (agave and cane).
  • Mixes & Cooking Alcohol:
    • Club Tom Collins (corn).
    • Dimond Jims Bloody Mary Mystery.
    • Holland House - all EXCEPT Teriyaki Marinade and Smooth & Spicy Bloody Mary Mixes.
    • Mr. & Mrs. T - all Except Bloody Mary Mix.
    • Spice Islands - Cooking Wines - Burgundy, Sherry and White.
  • Ouzo - made from grapes and anise.
  • Rum
  • Sake - fermented with rice and Koji enzymes. The Koji enzymes are grown on Miso, which is usually made with barley. The two-product separation from barley, and the manufacturing process should make it safe for celiacs.
  • Scotch Whiskey
  • Sherry
  • Sparkling Wine
  • Tequila
  • Vermouth - distilled from grapes.
  • Vodka
  • Wine - all wines, including port wines and sherry, are safe for celiacs.
  • Wine Coolers:
    • Bartle & James - their wine-based beverages (EXCEPT their malt beverages - read the label carefully!).
    • Boones - their wine-based beverages (EXCEPT their malt beverages - read the label carefully!)


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shoshanna levy's picture

That's why I stick to high grade tequila :) Naturally, gluten free!

Lana's picture

Wow! Thank you for the list! Have you tried XI ACAI? Omg it's SOO good. And it's GLUTEN FREE! Yippee! Here's some info: Gluten Free Cocktail that is 37 Calories an ounce, all-natural, low glycemic index and 2013 GOLD at International Spirits Competition. and