Gluten Sensitivity and Alcohol

Gluten-free Guide

by Andrew Adorno


Are you watching the amount of gluten in your diet? According to a national survey, about 29% of the nation is trying to reduce or avoid gluten in their diets. That is 1 in 3 people! While only around 1% of the population actually has celiac disease, an inherited autoimmune disease that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested, another 6% of the population has a form of non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Although less severe, this sensitivity can still lead to significant adverse reactions when gluten is ingested. For those of you that don’t know, gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. The only treatment for those unable to digest gluten properly is avoiding it all together. It is present in many foods and beverages, but alcohol can also be a source. Here is what you need to know about gluten and alcohol:

Beverages Safe to Consume: Alcoholic beverages prepared from fruit are gluten-free and safe for people with celiac disease to consume. Fruit-based alcohols include a wide range of products such as Wine, Champagne, Hard Ciders, Brandy, Cognac, Triple Sec and even Ouzo. Sake is also safe to consume since it is prepared from rice and does not contain any remnants of gluten. But for those looking for hard liquor options, research the distillation process before drinking. Most distilled alcoholic beverages are typically gluten-free since the distillation process leaves only pure alcohol, even if the product is fermented from wheat, barley or rye. Some popular distilled spirits include Vodka, Gin, Scotch Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, Tequila made from 100% agave, Mezcal, Grand Marnier, Brandy… just naming a few! While these are generally safe to consume, there is never a 100% guarantee. Some people with high sensitivity to gluten might still react to these products depending on the preparation method or intensity of the process. If you are concerned about the gluten content of distilled alcohols, either sip slowly and note if a reaction occurs or just avoid all together. Bottom line: If you have a gluten sensitivity – play it safe. Stick with unflavored wines, champagnes, hard ciders, and gluten-free beers made from sorghum grains.

Do your research! Asking a few simple questions will help you make more informed decisions on which alcohols are safe for you.

  1. Are oak barrels used to age the alcohol? Some oaks barrels are sealed with a gluten-containing paste.
  2. Is gluten or another protein used to refine the alcohol?
  3. Does the alcohol have any grain mash, flavorings, or color additives?
  4. How thorough is the distillation process?

Best to Avoid: Beers are most likely to contain barley, wheat, or rye which all have gluten proteins. Malt beverages, Lagers and Ales all contain gluten as well. You may see some beers that state they are crafted to remove gluten. These can be tempting to grab, but read the fine print. There is a disclaimer on these products stating the gluten content cannot be verified. These brews are off limits and should be avoided at all costs. But for our beer lovers, check out beers made from the grain Sorghum. These beers are gluten-free and are safe to consume!


Martin’s Recommendations:

Beer: Angry Orchard Hard Ciders $1.50 Redbridge Beer $1.35

Sake: Snow Maiden Nigori 720ml: $14.99 Well of Wisdom 720ml: $21.99

Vodka: Tito’s 1.75L: $29.99, Bootlegger 750ml: $28.99, Chopin 750ml: $23.99, and Oryza 750ml: $25.99

Mezcal: Peloton de la Muerte 750ml: $23.99

Rum: Plantation Grand Reserve Aged 5 years 750ml: $20.99

Tequila: Calle 23 750ml: $20.99-$29.99

Gin: Oryza 750ml: $26.99

Whiskey: Mellow Corn 750ml: $10.99


Andrew Adorno is an undergraduate nutrition student and aspiring Registered Dietitian currently working at Martin’s.