Gluten-Free Liquor

Gluten Free Liquor: Spirits

The Facts

Gluten-Free Liquor: The Canadian Celiac Association includes distilled alcoholic beverages on it's list of allowed items.  The protein is too large to make it through the distillation process.

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Personal Experience

A couple of Christmas's ago I had an experience of getting educated, the hard way.

I’d been living gluten free for about six years and had done tons of research. The last thing I expected was to spend the day after Christmas in bed having been flattened by my own ignorance. On top of the splitting headache, the stiff neck, lethargy, brain fog, sore back and feeling like my insides are swollen and trying to escape my body, I was embarrassed and angry... at myself.

I’ve been asked many times if I can have hard liquor or spirits and the short answer is yes. In fact to me, the term "gluten free liquor" is redundant.  Gluten is not carried over in the distillation process. That said, I knew I had some issues with rye whiskey so I would just avoid it.

The Christmas hard knock and rather harsh introduction to the notion that "gluten free liquor" should be a term I'm concerned about, had to do with gin. Dillon’s rose gin specifically. It’s a lovely aromatic sipping liqueur with the smell of rose petals and just a bit of a peppery finish. I’d had gin before. The white kind that makes a refreshing summer cocktail mixed with tonic or lemonade, and was just fine. And I had thought that gin was vodka based, infused with juniper berries. Vodka is safe so why not. Well, turns out that gin has a much broader pedigree and can be made with any spirit as it’s base. This particular one is rye. I’d had it a couple of times before, and thinking back, didn’t feel great at the end of those evenings, but I never connected it to the gin. It was at the end of a night with food and several drinks so I just thought I was feeling crappy from drinking too much. Well this time there is no mistake. I felt fine until I had a few sips from the bottle of a thoughtful and generous Christmas gift from a friend and just got slammed. 

This mini disaster caused me to do some more research.  I don't think I can put it better than this article from VeryWellFit.

Since my rose gin disaster I had a similar but less dramatic experience with vodka.  I always thought vodka was made with potatoes.  Then one evening, sitting on the sofa with guests and sipping the Grey Goose that my husband had brought me from duty free, I notice something just didn't feel right.  I listened to my body and set the drink aside.  When I looked it up I learned that Grey Goose is made from wheat as are several other vodkas.  Now whenever I try an unfamiliar brand I always look it up!

So the moral of the story is you can always learn something new - and yes, gluten free liquor is a thing.  

Gluten-Free Liquor: Cocktails and Coolers

Here's where things get a little complicated as the number of cocktails available are about equal to the stars in the sky.  Like any food you consume, you need to know what's in it.  Coolers are in effect, pre-made cocktails or mixed drinks, so you need to know what's in them too.

I don't think it's helpful to try to give you an exhaustive list of gluten free coolers as new ones are coming out all the time so it would be impossible to keep current.  Also, like with any other product, ingredients can change without notice so you should always check.  But I can give you some things to watch for and a few examples. 

Things to watch for:

Beer - Shandy's and Red Eyes are the classic example.  While researching for this article I came across several new beer cocktails that sound refreshing and delightful.  I'm a bit jealous that I can't have these.  Maybe it's another excuse to give gluten free beer another try. For more on gluten free beer click here.

Worcestershire Sauce in a Caesar - this takes pre-made, or bar made Caesar's off the list, but if you make your own you can use gluten free Worcestershire.

Malt which is made from barley - this applies to pre-made cocktails or coolers.  Many do contain malt so check out the ingredients. In Canada Smirnoff Ice is gluten free.  Mike's Hard Lemonade is a bit controversial as it contains malt but their special filtration process takes the finished product to below 5 ppm which is considered safe.  I drink Mike's with no issue. 

Cider has it's own post here -  Growers has a Rose cooler made from cider and wine which is a new favourite for me. 

Spirits that cause you issues - although distilled spirits are considered gluten free, that too is a bit controversial.  

Wine is usually gluten free.  There are a few things to watch for.  Go here for more

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