Find out what alcohol has gluten, if it’s safe for a gluten-free diet, if your favorites are gluten-free, and what brands to look for.
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If you’re just getting started with a gluten-free diet, there are a lot of things you’ll have to start thinking about as to what foods are safe for you and which ones you’ll have to avoid. Knowing the food you can enjoy on this diet is important, but what you drink is something not to be looked over.
Some types of alcohol contain gluten, so you’ll want to be sure what you drink is safe for your diet. In this post, we’ll go over some of the different types of alcohol and whether or not they are safe for your gluten-free diet.
First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page as it relates to what gluten is and what we’re looking for when it comes to gluten in alcoholic beverages.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in most wheat products, and acts as the “glue” that helps to hold wheat, barley, kamut, spelt, farro, durum, bulgur, rye, and semolina together to maintain their shape.
Gluten is naturally occurring, and therefore is impossible to strip away from the grain. If a grain naturally has gluten in it, there’s no way to make that food gluten-free.
Where is gluten most likely to be found in alcohol?
Many alcoholic beverages are gluten-free, like distilled vodka, gin, whiskey, bourbon, rum, tequila. Wine, mead and most hard ciders are also gluten-free.
You’re most likely to find gluten in alcoholic drinks that are not distilled, like beer. You’ll also find gluten in alcoholic drinks where flavorings have been added to a drink, like liqueurs or some flavored liquors.
The best way to know if an alcoholic drink has gluten is to do research before you try or buy it.
Is alcohol labeled as gluten-free so I know what is safe?
Generally, most alcohol is not labeled with gluten-free. This is because most liquors are gluten-free and even though they are made using barley malt or other gluten-containing grains, the gluten is removed during the distillation process.
There are two main groups that make the laws around gluten-free labeling as it pertains to alcohol: The Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The TTB regulates distilled spirits, wines and ciders with more than 7% alcohol by volume, and malt beverages, such as hard lemonade.
The FDA regulates wine and ciders with less than 7% alcohol by volume, malt beverages that are made without malted barley or hops.
Some alcohol products will have a gluten-free label, if they are made without any gluten-containing ingredients.
The TTB allows for labels of “gluten removed” or “crafted to remove gluten” to make it clear that gluten has been reduced, but cannot be guaranteed to not be present.
According to the FDA, in order to have a gluten-free label on a product, the product has to contain less than 20 ppm in one serving. You will mostly find these labels on gluten-free beers, ciders, and sometimes wine.
Now that you know the basics of gluten in alcohol, let’s talk about some of the specific alcoholic drinks that you might be wondering about.
Beer is made from hops, malted barley, yeast, and water. Other flavorings, fruits, and spices can be added to give a unique flavor profile, but at its most basic, these are the only ingredients you need to make beer.
Does beer have gluten?
The short answer is YES. Most beer is made with malted barley – and sometimes with wheat. Barley and wheat are both gluten-containing grains.
In the process of making beer, gluten remains in the drink, as opposed to distilled drinks, such as whiskey that uses malted barley but the gluten is distilled out of the final product.
Are there gluten-free beers I can drink?
Yes, there are brands of beer that are made with gluten-free grains, such as sorghum, buckwheat, or rice. These will have a “gluten-free label” on them and will be safe for a gluten-free diet.
There are also “gluten removed” beers on the market that are made with gluten-containing grains. These beers get treated with an enzyme to break down the gluten and reduce the gluten quantity in the beer to be lower than 20ppm, as required by the FDA to be considered gluten-free.
Find a list of gluten-free beer brands you can safely enjoy on a gluten-free diet here: Does Beer Have Gluten?
Wine is made from grape juice, and sometimes other fruit juices, that has been fermented over time. This fermentation process turns the sugars from the grape juice into alcohol, leaving wine to be enjoyed.
Is wine gluten-free? Does wine have gluten?
Since wine is made using grapes and grape juice, we can be sure that as long as no other flavorings or additives are added to it, that it is gluten-free and safe for a gluten-free diet.
According to Decanter, gluten can sneak its way into a bottle of wine from wheat paste used to seal wine barrels. However, “most wines contain fewer than 20 parts per million gluten, which is a legal requirement in the UK and the US for food to be labelled as gluten free.”
Wine is generally safe on a gluten-free diet.
Find out if your favorite brands are gluten-free by reading this post: Is Wine Gluten-free?
If you aren’t a fan of beer but love the same experience of bubbles and bottles, hard cider might be a good option for you.
Cider is made from fermented apple juice, yeast, and sugar. Hard cider on its own has a distinct apple taste, and some ciders are made with the addition of other fruits and flavors as well. Berries, pineapple, and other fruits may be used to create new and interesting flavors. Perry drinks are made from pear juice and are fermented the same way ciders are.
Is hard cider gluten-free?
Most hard cider is gluten-free, because it is made using apple juice as its base. Apples are naturally gluten-free, meaning most cider is also gluten-free. There are no gluten-containing grains in most hard ciders.
Some ciders do contain gluten, but not from the apple juice it’s made from. Gluten gets introduced into the cider if a facility shares equipment with other alcoholic beverages that contain gluten, like beer.
You’ll likely find “gluten-free” labels on cider bottles and beverages. You’ll want to look for that before you buy, just in case there is gluten that has come into contact with the cider in the brewing or bottling process.
Find a full list of brands and flavors or gluten-free ciders here: Is Cider Gluten-free?
Vodka is a liquor that can be made from different ingredients, including cereal grains, sugar beet molasses, and potatoes. Different brands use different ingredients, here are a few:
- Absolut is made from wheat
- Belvedere is made from rye
- Grey Goose is made from wheat
- Ketel One is made from wheat
- Smirnoff is made from wheat
- Svedka is made from wheat
Does vodka have gluten?
You might see that list and assume that vodka is not safe for a gluten-free diet due to all the wheat and rye – gluten-containing grains.
However you’d be wrong. Vodka, does not contain gluten, even though it is made using gluten-containing grains. This is because the distillation process removes the gluten entirely. If you are enjoying a pure distilled vodka with no other ingredients, you can enjoy vodka on a gluten-free diet.
Is all vodka gluten-free?
According to this Scientific American article, “all vodka is gluten-free unless there is some flavored vodka out there where someone adds a gluten-containing ingredient.”
There are many brands that offer gluten-free vodka. To see a full list, check out this post: Gluten-free Vodka
If you like to enjoy whiskey, you may be wondering if it is safe to drink.
Whiskey is made from grains that have been malted, mashed, fermented, distilled, then aged. Whiskey can be made from various types of grains, such as corn, barley, rye, and wheat.
Different types of whiskey use different grains (source). For example:
- Bourbon must contain 51% corn
- Rye whiskey must contain 51% rye grain
- Scotch is made mostly from malted barley, corn, and wheat
- Single malt Irish whiskey is made from 100% barley malt
Is whiskey gluten-free? Does whiskey have gluten?
According to Beyond Celiac, whiskey is considered safe for a gluten-free diet, despite rye, barley, and wheat being grains that contain gluten. Due to the distillation process, whiskey does not contain gluten and can be enjoyed on a gluten-free diet.
According to Very Well Fit, even though whiskey is considered gluten-free, some people have had gluten reactions to this drink. Start slow if you’re just getting into drinking whiskey and make sure to take note of brands in case you do have a reaction so you can steer clear in the future.
If you’re a whiskey drinker, you might be wondering which brands are safe for your gluten-free diet. Find a list of gluten-free whiskey here: Is Whiskey Gluten-free?
We know that whiskey is gluten-free, but what about bourbon?
Bourbon is a type of whiskey and is primarily made from corn. According to Thrillist, a whiskey can only be considered a bourbon if it is made up of 51% corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye grain. In addition, this mixture has to be stored in charred oak containers and cannot have any additives.
While there are some alcohols that have general guidelines, what separates a bourbon from other types of whiskey is actually a law.
Is bourbon gluten-free?
Yes, like other whiskeys, bourbon that is distilled and is pure from the bottle is considered gluten-free. Even though it can be made using wheat and grains that contain gluten, the gluten is removed from the bourbon during the distillation process.
You can safely enjoy pure distilled bourbon on a gluten-free diet.
Wondering which brands of bourbon are gluten-free? Find a full list here: Is Bourbon Gluten-free?
Scotch is another brother cousin to whiskey, as it is made mainly from malted barley, but can also include corn and wheat. According to Thrillist, what makes Scotch whisky different from other whiskey is that it has been distilled and matured in Scotland.
There are different types of Scotch whisky, as well: single malt, single grain, blended malt, blended grain, and blended Scotch.
Pure distilled Scotch is safe for a gluten-free diet. The barley and other wheat that’s included in the mash is removed during the distillation process.
All different types of Scotch whiskey are gluten-free, including single or blended malts, single or blended grain, and blended Scotch. As long as they are enjoyed in their pure distilled form, without any additives or flavorings, this is safe for a gluten-free diet.
Find out if your favorite Scotch brands are gluten-free here: Is Scotch Gluten-free?
Rum is a popular liquor that’s used a lot in mixed drinks, so let’s find out what rum is made of and if it is safe for a gluten-free diet.
Rum is a liquor made from sugarcane. According to Britannica, “most rums are made from molasses, the residue remaining after sugar has been crystallized from sugarcane juice, containing as much as 5 percent sugar.”
While rum is made using sugarcane or molasses, it doesn’t actually contain sugar. After the distillation process, sugar won’t be present in the final product.
Is rum gluten-free?
Since rum is made from sugarcane or molasses, and we know that sugar does not contain gluten, we can be sure that rum is gluten-free.
It is safe to enjoy rum on a gluten-free diet, as long as the rum is pure and distilled. Look out for any drink mixes that have added flavorings, spices, or other additives. These additions may contain gluten, so you’ll want to do some extra research before purchasing or drinking.
Find out if your favorite brands are gluten-free, including your favorite flavored rums: Is Rum Gluten-free?
Tequila is a popular liquor to drink on its own and as a base for margaritas and tequila sunrise mixed drinks.
Tequila is made from the blue agave plant. It is a distilled beverage that originated in Mexico. It is similar to mezcal in that they are both made from blue agave, but prepared in different ways.
Is tequila gluten-free?
Knowing that tequila is made from the blue agave plant which is naturally gluten-free, we can be sure that tequila is safe for a gluten-free diet. As long as you’re purchasing tequila that says “100% agave” on the bottle, you’ll know it’s gluten-free.
Are margaritas gluten-free?
Margaritas are usually made with a combination of tequila, triple sec or Coitreau, and lime or lemon juice. If your margaritas are homemade, you can check all your ingredients to be sure there isn’t any gluten in any of them before adding them to your margaritas.
If you make them at home, know that orange liqueurs are gluten-free, however bottled margarita mixes should be looked at more closely. You can look under their ingredient lists for other names of gluten to be safe. For the most part, margarita mixes are gluten-free and will have a “gluten-free” label on them to help you identify them easily.
There are a ton of gluten-free tequila options available, find out if your favorites are gluten-free here: Is Tequila Gluten-free?
Gin is a popular liquor that is made from distilled malt or grains (usually wheat or barley) that have been infused with juniper berries and/or other botanicals. Gin is first made from a distilled alcohol, then many different botanicals can be infused to create a unique flavor.
There are a number of different types of gin that you can find in common drinks or at the grocery store, including:
- London Dry Gin
- Plymoth Gin
- Old Tom Gin
- Navy Strength Gin
- Gin Liquers
Is gin gluten-free?
Even though gin contains gluten-containing grains, such as wheat or barley, it is in fact gluten-free. Through the distillation process, the gluten is separated from the alcohol that’s left behind. After the distilled alcohol is removed, herbs and botanicals are added to infuse the gin to give it it’s signature taste.
Most gin does not contain gluten, due to the distillation process. However, it never hurts to check that any additional gluten-containing ingredients have been added to flavor the drink, especially with gin liqueurs. Check the websites of brands you love before purchasing just in case.
Read more about gluten-free gin and find out if your favorite brands are gluten-free here: Is Gin Gluten-free?
Which Liqueurs are Gluten-free?
There are a ton of different liqueurs available for mixing drinks and you may be wondering which are safe for a gluten-free diet.
Liqueurs are made from a base alcohol of liquor with sweeteners and flavorings added. These flavorings can come in many different varieties, such as extracts, flavors, and oils to enhance the flavor of the base liquor.
Liqueurs are more flavorful and sweeter than liquors and tend to be used in mixed drinks, as they are more palatable and easier to drink than distilled liquor.
While there are a too many liqueurs to list here, here are some popular liqueurs that I have researched to ensure they are gluten-free:
- Grand Marnier
- Triple Sec
Read more about gluten-free liqueurs here: Which Liqueurs are Gluten-free?
Mead is an alcoholic beverage made from honey and water, then fermented with yeast. It has a unique flavor and can be made with just these three ingredients or made with other flavorings, like fruit juice, spices, and herbs.
Is mead gluten-free?
If mead is made with only honey, water, and yeast, it is naturally gluten-free. Most mead on the market is gluten-free.
However, some brewers add extra ingredients for flavor, and some of those ingredients may contain gluten. Some mead brands add malted barley before fermenting, so be sure to look at labels to find out if the brand you are buying is gluten-free.
Looking for some gluten-free mead brands? Check out this post: Is Mead Gluten-free?
Sake is a popular Japanese alcohol that is made from fermented rice, and sometimes koji.
Is sake gluten-free?
Yes, most sake is gluten-free, because it is made with rice. Rice is a naturally gluten-free ingredient, making sake also gluten-free.
According to Beyond Celiac, premium sake is gluten-free. Non-premium sake may contain additional ingredients that may not be gluten-free, so as long as you choose a premium sake, it is safe for your diet.
Get a list of gluten-free sake brands.
Hard seltzers are gaining popularity in the past few years and you may be wondering if they are safe for a gluten-free diet.
According to Vox, “At its most basic level, hard seltzer is seltzer with alcohol in it. What that alcohol is made out of can differ — usually it’s just fermented cane sugar with added fruit flavors, but sometimes, like other “flavored malt beverages” such as Bud Light’s Lime-A-Ritas, it uses malted barley.”
Is hard seltzer gluten-free?
Most hard seltzer is made using cane sugar to create the alcohol in hard seltzers, although none of the sugar is left after the crafting process.
Some hard seltzers are made using gluten-containing grains. Sometimes the gluten is left in the hard seltzer (Henry’s Hard Sparkling Water, for instance). With other brands, the gluten will be removed after the fermenting process, otherwise known as “gluten removed.”
Gluten removed means during the crafting process, they were able to remove some but not all of the gluten, making it less than 20ppm present in the product. These gluten-removed products wouldn’t be considered 100% gluten-free as you’d find in a naturally gluten-free product.
The short answer is: yes, most hard seltzers are gluten-free, but not all.
Find a full list of gluten-free hard cider brands and flavors here: Is Hard Seltzer Gluten-free?
Mike’s Hard Lemonade
Mike’s hard lemonade is a popular sweetened alcoholic beverage that is made from malt grains, yeast, lemons, natural lemon flavor, and sugar.
Is Mike’s hard lemonade gluten-free?
Technically yes, all flavors of Mike’s hard lemonade is gluten-free as it contains less than 5ppm of gluten per serving.
Mike’s hard lemonades are made using grains that contain gluten, and they remove as much gluten as possible using their “proprietary unique filtration process,” and test each batch through the R5 Competitive ELISA test which shows how much gluten is included in the beverage.
Their goal for their beverages is to put out drinks that contain less than 5ppm of gluten per bottle, making it safe to be considered gluten free if we were following the FDA’s regulations for gluten-free foods and beverages (anything less than 20ppm can be considered gluten-free).
This product is similar to gluten-removed beers, where it should be considered safe for folks who follow a gluten-free diet due to a gluten intolerance, but perhaps not for those who are Celiac.
Know your body and your tolerance to make your best judgement on whether drinking Mike’s hard lemonade is a good choice for you.
Read more about Mike’s Hard Lemonade and gluten here: Is Mike’s Hard Lemonade Gluten-free?
I hope you’ve found this post informative and useful as you’re navigating what alcohol is safe for you and your gluten-free diet. This post is part of the Gluten-free Alcohol Series, which you can find links to below for more information on each of the alcoholic beverages discussed in this post in more detail.
Love this post? Check out more from the Gluten-free Alcohol Series.
If there is an alcohol that you’re wondering about, feel free to post it in the comments and I’d be happy to do some research and add it to this post.