One of the most frustrating parts of having an allergy is that it tends to get in the way of your fun. No one wants to be that girl asking the diner waiter at 4am whether or not the French fries are dredged in flour as the rest of her friends begin housing mozzarella sticks.
So I’ve been a little negligent when it comes to being choosy about my alcohol when out. And it took me a while to overcome my denial that not all vodkas and gins are actually gluten-free, even though in theory, like many old world fare, their original production was very much so.
I’m not alone in this, mind you. My friend Jessie is gluten-free and a good ole Southern girl. She has refused to give up whiskey and has relied on some research that the distilling process removes most of the gluten to justify her continued devotion to mint juleps.
But since this post on gluten-free beers was so popular, I thought it was worth doing some investigating. And I was surprised to find out that just because Grey Goose and Kettle are expensive, does not mean that they are wheat free. Oops.
In order to maintain my status as semi-easy going party girl, I put together a list below of the best and most mainstream gluten-free liquor options available (one from each category – bourbon, vodka, gin, tequila, rum, etc.). Unless you’re in a desperate situation–like say, at a late night wedding after party in a hotel room with all of your college friends trying to continue the fun with one measly bottle of vodka and no mixers except for the jar of artisan honey you received as part of your welcome bag (which, for the record, tastes really delicious with vodka)–you should be able to find at least one of these liquors to sip on.
1. Makers Mark
When I first was diagnosed with a gluten allergy, I just assumed that all alcohols in the whiskey family were off limits. This was very upsetting, as hot toddy season is my favorite season. It wasn’t until Chef Race, when I declined Claire Robinson’s offer to buy me a Jack Daniels Black Label on the rocks that I realized that bourbon is traditionally made from corn. Unfortunately, many brands use malt or barley to form part of the mix. But Makers Mark is on many gluten-free lists, and though the Lapines are a devout Jack Daniels family, it’s my favorite bourbon option (don’t tell).
[ADDENDUM: since writing this post based on information on Celiac.com, others have reported that Marker’s Mark uses wheat in addition to corn. I’ve consumed it without reaction, but please avoid if you are very sensitive.]
Most tequilas are gluten-free, but beware of the cheaper stuff which, regardless of gluten, will give you a hangover akin to number 4 in this list. Patron silver just so happens to be GF, which is a relief, because I am a frequent, if reluctant recipient of it in shot form. Jose Cuervo is also gluten-free if you’re looking for a more affordable option.
Most Smirnoff products are gluten-free, but if you’re very sensitive, I would avoid some of the flavors. Smirnoff Ice is not gluten-free. I wish I had known this when “icing” people was a thing. That would have been an amazing get-out-of-jail free card. It’s a pretty ubiquitous vodka, so I try to drink it when I can, even if I get weird looks at classy establishments when I actively request Smirnoff.
The vast majority of rums are gluten-free. Bacardi has confirmed that their products are – all except Bacardi Silver. Captain Morgan is also GF if you like dark rum.
A Hendricks G&T with cucumber is one of the more delightful cocktails on this planet. It’s also widely available abroad, so a good option if you don’t know how to say “is this gluten-free?” in French. Here’s a confirmation from one of the brand reps. Bombay Saphire is also gluten-free.
I researched this one pretty rigorously and found some contradictory information. However, this site puts Campari on their GF list. There’s nothing in the ingredients that would suggest otherwise. My mom (also GF) and I drink a lot of Campari soda before dinner. We are kind of old Italian men at heart.
NOTE: everyone’s sensitivities are different, so please do not take my word that you will not have a reaction to these products. Proceed with caution if you are highly allergic and test the waters to see if you can tolerate. I’ve provided links where I can to others’ research on these alcohols.
PPS: I am not an alcoholic! Just a 27-year-old in the food biz that likes to have fun. My Friday nights home alone watching Sex and the City are far less exciting to blog about.