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choosing gluten-free alcohol

by caroline

As many of you know, a gluten-free diet can have some tricky spots, and navigating the ins and outs of choosing safe alcoholic beverages is one of them. Some vodka has wheat or barley, while others are made with grapes or potatoes. Most wine is gluten-free, but there are, of course, a few exceptions (some dessert wines, for example). Ready for a quick briefing on the options that are available to you? Here it is!

NOTE: Specific brands that are mentioned should be researched in the event a manufacturer has updated the ingredients. The brands provided in this list are gluten-free as of November 2013, but should be looked into for absolute certainty that the ingredients are still gluten-free at time of consumption.

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Beer and Hard Cider

Not too long ago, there weren’t many gluten-free beer options available. These days, we have some rather tasty ones to try that do not include common gluten-containing grains like wheat and barley.

• Green’s: Belgian Ales (Quest Tripel Ale, Endeavour Dubbel Ale, and Discovery Amber Ale) glutenfreebeers.co.uk
• New Planet: Pale, Amber, Raspberry, and Blonde ales newplanetbeer.com
• Angry Orchard: Hard Cider (Crisp Apple, Traditional Dry, Apple Ginger, and
Elderflower) angryorchard.com

Wine

Wine is a naturally gluten-free alcoholic beverage, but there are some instances where cross contamination becomes an issue in the wine-making process. Some wineries use a flour paste to seal their barrels, while others use gluten-containing grains to clarify their wines. That being said, both of these practices are rare and more common in European countries than in the United States. Almost all wine is considered gluten-free by the Food and Drug Administration (less than 20 parts per million of gluten). In my opinion, wine is one of those alcoholic beverages that requires the consumer to pay attention to any adverse reactions and ask questions, such as:

1. Were oak barrels used to age the wine?
2. Was a gluten-containing protein used to clarify the wine?
3. Am I having a reaction to sulfites? Sometimes the icky feelings we get from consuming wine can be related to an intolerance to sulfites. Sulfites are naturally occurring in wine and more are often added.

Sparkling Wine or Champagne

The same rules we applied to wine are used here—sparkling wine and champagne is naturally gluten-free, but you might run into some cross contamination issues during the aging process. If you aren’t sure, call your favorite producer and find out. Here are four popular varieties, depending on your budget:

• Domaine Carneros Brut Carneros: $25–$36 domainecarneros.com/brut
• Moët & Chandon Imperial: $35–$40 moet.com
• Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label: $45–$50 veuve-clicquot.com
• Dom Pérignon: $145+ domperignon.com

Vodka

Stay away from vodkas made from gluten-containing grains, like wheat, barley, or rye. Choose those made with vodka, grape, or potato instead.

• Ciroc Ultra Premium Plain Vodka: A grape-based vodka cirocvodka.com
• Chopin Potato Vodka: Chopin makes three varieties of vodka (wheat, potato, and rye), so be sure to pick the potato-based liquor. The potato vodka has a black lid and black lettering on the bottle chopinvodka.com
• Tito’s Handmade Vodka: A corn-based vodka made in Texas titosvodka.com
• Smirnoff Plain Vodka: Another corn-based vodka—stick with the plain variety smirnoff.com

Try It: Recipe for a Traditional Lemon Drop

Gin

Many gin products are made with gluten-containing grains like wheat and barley. There are, however, a few that are made with grapes and potatoes.

• Cold River Gin: A 100 percent potato-based gin coldrivervodka.com/gin
• G-Vine Gin: A French grape-based gin g-vine.com

Tequila

As long as your tequila is traditionally made (100 percent blue agave plant), then it is naturally gluten-free. Be sure, however, to avoid those that are made with mixers that may or may not contain gluten.

• Jose Cuervo Tequila Gold and Tequila Silver: cuervo.com
• Patrón Silver, Gran Patrón Platinum, and Gran Patrón Burdeos: A premium tequila brand patrontequila.com
• Skinnygirl Margaritas: Made from 100 percent blue agave tequila skinnygirlcocktails.com/lpa

Rum

Most rum is naturally gluten-free (it’s made from sugarcane), but like other liquors, avoid those that contain added flavors or coloring.

• Bacardi Superior, Gold, and Select: bacardi.com
• Cruzan Estate Light and Dark: cruzanrum.com

Beverages to Avoid:

• Mike’s Hard Lemonade
• Smirnoff Ice liquors
• Wine coolers and flavored wines
• Most flavored hard liquors

QUESTIONS ABOUT GLUTEN-FREE ALCOHOL? Fire away in the comments section!

Excerpt from: Caroline Shannon-Karasik. “Gluten-Free for the Holidays.” Skyhorse Publishing. This material is protected by copyright.