When beginning a gluten free diet it is important to consider the beverages you are consuming. Just because you are maintaining a gluten free diet doesn’t mean you can’t drink socially, you just need to find gluten free alcoholic beverages that are safe to consume.

So if you’re following a strict gluten free diet, you not only need to be aware of what you can and can’t eat, but also which drinks you consume.

Alcohol is something I find to be more on the difficult side when trying to determine what is and isn’t gluten free.

Certain drinks should be considered off limits, such as beer and whiskey, while others are almost always gluten free, such as rum and tequila. Below you will learn about gluten free alcoholic beverages, why each drink is safe or unsafe, and a few suggested brands.

Is Beer Gluten Free?

Bad news for beer drinkers, beer is made with hops, barley, and other ingredients that are not gluten free. This applies to just about all types of beers, from light beer to craft beer to the most recognizable major beers. I would advise anyone with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance to avoid drinking beer unless it is specifically labeled gluten free.

If your not willing to give up beer. Many companies are beginning to produce beers specifically crafted for people with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. These beers are typically still brewed with barley, which contain gluten, but use a special process to remove gluten from the final product. Others use a different set of ingredients that contain little to no gluten, such as sorghum or buckwheat.

Choose Cider instead of Beer!

If you need a gluten free alcoholic beverage for a casual night out, go with a cider! Most ciders are gluten free because they are not brewed from wheat, barley, or rye. Most hard ciders are made from fermented fruits, like apples, making them naturally gluten-free, but be sure to read labels. Some might add ingredients like barley to enhance the flavour.

Wine & Champagne?

Here’s something to “cheers” about, Wine is a naturally gluten free alcohol. No matter the colour or type, it remains safe because it’s made from grapes, all fruits are gluten free and safe for those with celiac to consume. Plus, thanks to the health benefits of red wine, sipping a glass can actually be good for you! For instance, red wine may help fight obesity, among other benefits. 

There can be a few exceptions however because certain aspects of the winemaking process can introduce gluten to the final product. So always read the label and, if possible, check with the company before drinking them by sending an email. Most companies have a helpline or an email address on their website.

Champagne and sparkling wine are also safe to drink. Beware that individuals who are highly sensitive to gluten might still have a reaction after drinking wine. This is due to the caulking in the barrels the wines were aged in and not the wine itself. Note the brand and avoid it in the future. And wine coolers, which are high in sugar and carbohydrates, should be avoided. These usually contain barley malt, as they’re not pure wine.

Which Spirits are Gluten Free?

Vodka? – Vodka is a very tricky alcohol for gluten free drinkers. Technically, during the distillation process of the vodka, the gluten proteins from wheat-based vodkas are supposed to be removed. However, many people have claimed that these vodkas (made from wheat) still contain gluten, thus leaving them feeling sick and nauseous. So to be safe, stay away from all wheat based vodkas if you have Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

However, you can still opt for a non-wheat, potato, corn, or grape-based vodka which is typically cleared for gluten free consumption. These include brands like Gordon’s and Smirnoff.

Tequila? – When tequila is made the traditional way with a blue agave plant it is naturally gluten free. However, there are cheap brands that contain gluten. So to make sure that your tequila is gluten free, be sure that the bottle says, “100% agave.” Choose Brands that are certified gluten free like NYLA Organic Tequila

Gin? – Gin most frequently is made from the gluten grains wheat, barley, and rye, along with corn which is gluten free. Gin is distilled, and most, but not all experts say Gin made with gluten grains should be safe on the gluten free diet. However, the Celiac Support Association advises those with celiac disease to drink only Gin that is not derived from gluten grains but with corn instead because many people with gluten sensitivity or celiac report serious gluten reactions from gin made with gluten grains. Go for brands such as Hendricks.

Whiskey & Bourbon? Whiskey and bourbon are not accepted as gluten free. Many claim that the distillation process purifies the liquor of gluten, making it safe to consume. Others note that the distillation process is not always carried out properly, or ingredients containing gluten are added in after distillation, and therefore the final product still contains more than 20 parts per million of gluten. Unfortunately, I cannot give you a yes or no answer on whether whiskey and bourbon are gluten free. Some celiacs have claimed to experience reactions from drinking these liquors, while others are able to consume them without a reaction. My suggestion is to drink alcoholic beverages that you know are safe.

Rum? – Plain rum is gluten free, it’s made from sugar cane, not from the gluten grains wheat, barley or rye. In fact, plain rum is safe regardless of whether it’s dark or light rum. However, spiced rums and flavoured rums are not always safe on the gluten free diet, so you need to know what you’re buying.  Choose brands like: Bacardi, Captain Morgan, or Malibu.

As always, make sure you read labels and contact the manufacturer if you’re unsure. Also, when in doubt… go without!