One thing you probably never thought about on a gluten-free diet is how it affects Happy Hour. Some time after a momentously messy night out involving tears and losing my dinner, I stumbled across some discussions regarding alcohol and gluten. There is a fair amount of debate on the distillation process for spirits and if the gluten is removed in the process but there aren’t any cut and dry answers. The general consensus seems to be that some people still react and others do not. According to the American Dietetics Association, EU and Canadian standards, it is accepted that distillation does remove gluten but some issues come from additives like caramel colouring or potential cross-contamination. So how do you know?
Obviously, unless you have access to the gluten-free versions, beer is a big NO. Wine and champagne however are generally fine (there was a note somewhere about wheat starch being used to seal barrels but there have been tests done showing gluten at below the 20 ppm). If you are really unsure, choose wines aged in steel.
Hard liqueur is where it all gets tricky depending on whom you believe. While the process of distillation done right does remove gluten, there are still concerns and some celiacs do report a reaction. I try to stick to spirits that are not derived from any gluten grains or that have gone through multiple distillations. If you are super sensitive or note feeling particularly awful, best to stop drinking that brand/type.
So what else can you drink?
Cognac, Armagnac and Grappa are grape-based so you are good to go.
Most rums if non-flavoured should be gluten free. If you want to be super safe, avoid anything with colouring added. Bacardi and Havana Club do confirm they are gluten free. However pre-mixed rum cocktails in bottles or cans may contain other ingredients so check labels.
Single malt whiskey according to the UK Celiacs Association is gluten free. However blended whiskies may or may not be depending as usual, on what is added.
Vodka should be gluten free from distillation but if you want to be super safe, pick one made from potatoes (Luksusowa) corn (Smirnoff unflavoured) or grapes (Ciroc Ultra Premium). The problem in Malaysia is that it isn’t always easy to find these brands.
Tequila is where I met my downfall. Don Julio is NOT gluten free. However tequila that is made only from Agave like Patron or Jose Cuervo works fine.
Gin is similar to vodka and should be gluten free. Hendricks is a pretty safe bet.
If you have concerns, the best thing to do is email the customer service of the manufacturer. Most are pretty good at responding. If you have a reaction, cut it out of your diet. There are plenty of other options to choose from so why damage your system. The Celiac Sprue Association for example recommends avoiding anything derived from a gluten source.
Be careful of mixers. Fresh juice, coca cola and soda water are definitely gluten free (thank goodness as a cold coca cola float is my hangover cure of choice).
As for me, I will stick to my champagne, white wine, mojitos, gin & tonics (Schweppes) or a Grey Goose Dirty Martini (don’t forget to check if the olives are stuffed with blue cheese or anything else).