Gluten-Free Alcoholic Drinks

58555113905215721By Dr. Selena Eon

As a physician, I don’t encourage drinking alcoholic beverages in the early stages of the gluten-free diet—please give your gut time to heal before adding alcohol to your diet. However, consumption of alcoholic beverages can be part of a healthful gluten-free diet for many, so long as the beverages chosen are gluten-free and consumed in moderation.

There is no one definition of “moderation”, but generally the term is used to describe a lower risk pattern of drinking, as shown in various epidemiological studies.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, drinking in moderation is defined as having no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men. This definition refers to the amount consumed on any single day and is not intended to be used as an average over several days.

It can be frustrating trying to find alcoholic beverages that are gluten-free, primarily because alcoholic beverages are not required to display an ingredient label. Because alcohol is not regulated by the FDA, the FDA ingredient labeling requirements do not apply. How do you know if your beverage is gluten-free when there is no label and no ingredient list? It can be tricky!

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is has been petitioning the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Bureau since 2003 to require ingredients and nutrition facts on alcohol labels, but so far, there is no law requiring ingredient lists on alcoholic beverages. You can help your lawmakers understand how important the labeling issue is to people with food sensitivies, check out this petition for more information.

Finding appropriate alcoholic beverages can certainly be a challenge, but Kitchen Table Medicine is here to help! Luckily, there are many choices that ARE gluten-free!

Alright, enough already—WHAT CAN I DRINK?

Previously, persons on the gluten-free diet were advised to consume only pure wine, potato vodka, rum and tequila. This is still good advice, and the safest approach possible, but I believe this approach is overly cautious and unnecessarily limits your choices.

False information about gluten and alcoholic beverages is rife on the internet, so it is easy to become confused. I agree that being cautious is incredibly important when following a strict gluten-free diet, but I also believe that causing unnecessary lifelong restriction of any food is unacceptable!

Newer wisdom on the subject dictates that all distilled liquors are gluten-free, even those derived from a gluten containing grain. Distilled liquors are gluten-free no matter what the original source ingredients are because the distillation process ensures that none of the gluten from the original ingredients can remain in the finished product.

It is reasonable to assume that all pure distilled liquors must therefore be gluten-free. For more information, check out this article on gluten and distillationThe only exceptions to the blanket statement that distilled liquors are all gluten-free are situations in which gluten-containing ingredients are added in after distillation.

I researched rumors about gluten-containing whiskey mash being added in after distillation of whiskey, but found no major manufacturers in the US who report adding gluten-containing mash to the distilled whiskey.

Another potential problem could be liquors in which caramel coloring is added. Caramel coloring may contain gluten, primarily if the ingredient is produced outside the USA, but not always. Thus, many on gluten-free diets may choose to avoid dark colored liquors because caramel coloring may be in the liquor and represent a potential source of gluten.

It is safest to avoid dark colored liquors because without food labels it is difficult, if not impossible, to know if caramel color is used in the liquor, and if so, if the caramel color is gluten-free. Individual consumers may be able to request this information from manufacturers, but most manufacturers are unlikely to promise the product gluten-free because manufacturers in mass-production environments are typically unaware of the source of an ingredient like caramel color.

If gluten-containing caramel color is present in a particular liquor, it is usually found in very small amounts, and people typically consume small amounts of liquor, so the amount of gluten in the alcohol may be negligible. Even so, I still recommend avoiding these suspect beverages as the safest long-term choice of action because there is no way to know how much gluten is in the drink.

I also recommend avoiding most prepared cocktails (strawberry daiquiris, margaritas, mojitos) when out, as the mixes commonly used contain lots of sugar, usually in the form of disgusting high-fructose corn syrup- a non-food best avoided by everyone.

If you want to order one of these cocktails, it is best to ask your bar or restaurant if you can see the ingredients on their mixer before you order. I found that many of my favorite restaurants carry a high-quality mixer made from real juices and pure cane sugar—but you can only get it if you order the “top shelf” drink with more expensive liquor.

If you mix your alcoholic beverage with another beverage, such as soda, tonic water, root beer, orange juice, be sure to check that your mixer is also gluten free. I have listed some popular mixers below, but did not mention sodas or juices. Most sodas and juices are gluten-free, but check the label to be sure.

Gluten-free alcoholic beverage choices- the list below is in alphabetic order.

  • Armagnac – made from grapes.
  • Beer: most beers contain gluten. However, there are now gluten-free beers on the market!
               Redbridge- easiest to find nationally, produced by Anheiser-Busch.
               Bard’s Tale brand (several varieties, most common is Dragon’s Gold)
               Green’s (several varieties)
  • Bourbon – Makers Mark is definitely GF.
  • Brandy
  • Champagne
  • Cider – fermented from apples or other fruits. Some are safe, however, many add barley for enzymes and flavor. Be sure to read labels or contact manufacturer. Spire Ciders are GF.
  • Cognac – made from grapes.
  • Gin
  • Grappa
  • Kahlua
  • Kirschwasser (cherry liqueur)
  • Margarita Mix:
            Jose Cuervo.
            Mr. & Mrs. T.
  • Martini: traditional martinis are generally GF. Common mixes:
           Club Extra Dry Martini (corn & grape).
           Club Vodka Martini (corn & grape).
  • Mead – distilled from honey.
  • Mistico:
           Jose Cuervo Mistico (agave and cane).
  • Mixes & Cooking Alcohol:
           Club Tom Collins (corn).
           Dimond Jims Bloody Mary Mystery.
           Holland House – all EXCEPT Teriyaki Marinade and Smooth & Spicy Bloody Mary Mixes.
           Mr. & Mrs. T – all Except Bloody Mary Mix.
           Spice Islands – Cooking Wines – Burgundy, Sherry and White. However, I suggest cooking with REAL wine as cooking wines are poor quality.
           Stirrings- they make a variety of cocktail mixes, higher quality that most mixes.
  • Ouzo – made from grapes and anise.
  • Rum
  • Sake – fermented with rice and Koji enzymes. The Koji enzymes are grown on Miso, which is usually made with barley. The two-product separation from barley, and the manufacturing process should make it gluten-free.
  • Scotch Whiskey.
  • SherrySparkling Wine
  • Tequila
  • Vermouth
  • Vodka
  • Wine – all wines, including port wines and sherry, are gluten-free.
    Wine Coolers: Despite the name, most wine coolers are malt based and contain gluten.
           Bartle & James – wine-based beverages only.
           Boones – wine-based beverages only
  • Whiskey- Jack Daniels’ Black Label Whiskey is GF. Maker’s Mark Whiskey is GF. Seagram’s Crown Whiskey is also GF. Other whiskeys likely are, as per previous discussion, however are not confirmed by the manufacturer.

If you have any questions about celiac disease, you are welcome to ask them in the comments section and they will be addressed in future articles.

Dr. Selena Eon practices in Bellevue, WA and you may contact her at
(206) 228-9537 or visit www.drselenaeon.com

Related reading:

Celiac Disease

Eating Gluten-Free on a Budget

Wheat and Gluten-Free Recipes

Photobucket Dr. Nicole Sundene, NMD is a licensed Naturopathic Medical Doctor at Fountain Hills Naturopathic Medicine 16719 E Palisades Blvd, Suite 205, Fountain Hills, AZ 85268.

She believes we should utilize natural medicines to treat the root cause of disease rather than just treating symptoms, as symptoms are a message of imbalance sent from the body and will persist until they are properly addressed.

For appointments please visit http://FHnaturopathic.com for more information about Naturopathic Medicine services.
©KitchenTableMedicine.com, LLC ™

Eat Gluten-Free Without Going Broke, Part 1

PhotobucketBy Dr. Selena Eon, ND

If you have been on a gluten-free diet for any length of time, you have likely noticed the explosion of ready-made gluten-free foods available. At my local Red Apple Market, I can now purchase ready-made pasta, cookies, crackers, bagels, macaroni box meals, English muffins, bread, doughnuts and brownies. The freezer cases contain a variety of gluten-free frozen meals, from pizza to macaroni & cheese. I can buy mixes for bread, cookies, brownies and cakes.

Garlic Jim’s now delivers gluten-free pizza to your home from most of their locations in the state.  PF Chang’s offers a gluten-free menu. Overall, I consider the increased availability of these foods a positive leap forward for those of us who must follow a gluten-free diet for health reasons.

It is wonderful to have the option to use these foods to create healthful meals when time is short. It is incredibly useful for relatives to be able to purchase foods like this when gluten-free family members come over for dinner. But, there are many reasons to limit consumption of these foods. Today I am going to focus on financial reasons for doing so.

Many gluten-free goods are specialty products that are produced in much smaller quantities than most mass produced prepared foods. Manufacturers should take steps ensure that all the ingredients are gluten free. The products need to be tested for gluten on a periodic basis to ensure that they are safe for individuals who must avoid gluten completely.

Creating these products in a gluten-free manner generally requires a dedicated facility—one that never houses gluten containing foods, although some manufacturers use carefully cleaned shared facilities with wheat products (these foods may not be acceptable for some individuals). The ingredients must be shipped to the manufacturing facility. The food must be produced, packaged and shipped to your grocer. The cost of these processes is ultimately passed on to you, the consumer.

I choose to purchase food that is produced locally whenever possible. One reason for this choice is financial. When you purchase food produced hundred or even thousands of miles away the cost of the food goes up because you are also paying for the additional packaging and transportation. Packaging needs are increased to keep the food intact during shipping with the extra costs passed on to you, the consumer.

Transportation costs include the cost of fuel, maintaining the vehicles, paying the shipping company employees and more. I’m not going to discuss in detail today, but must mention the environmental impact of producing the fuel for transportation and the materials for packaging as well as increased pollution from using the fuel for transportation of food. Because of these factors, it is a good idea to purchase local products with little or no packaging whenever it is reasonable to do so. Purchasing local saves both money and resources.

Most families purchase food on a budget and cannot afford to substantially increase spending on food. Following a gluten-free diet may become an intolerable financial burden if a person tries to follow a gluten-free version of the standard American diet.  Gluten intolerance frequently runs in families, so it may be necessary to purchase gluten-free foods for multiple family members, compounding the financial issue. A family where only some members are gluten-intolerant may find that feeding the whole family gluten-free is the best way to ensure a gluten-free diet for those members who need it.

An example, using prices found at a local supermarket:

  • A package of 5 gluten-free bagels costs $5.59 while you can purchase wheat bagels for about $3 for 6.Photobucket
  • A 5 oz box of crackers is $4.99 while a 14.5 oz box of Ritz crackers is only $4.11.
  • A 12oz package of gluten-free spaghetti noodles costs $3.79 while a 16 oz package of wheat spaghetti  noodles can cost as little as $.99.

You can see from that, a person accustomed to a bagel with breakfast, crackers with a snack & spaghetti for dinner runs into a substantial difference in cost over time. This is particularly noticeable when feeding multiple people.

Learning that gluten is not a good food for you or a loved one is an incredible & life changing event. The positives of assuring that your amazing body is fed properly so far outweigh the negatives that it is worth the effort to learn how to feed yourself gluten-free and well.

Adopting a gluten-free lifestyle is a challenge for many people, and reasonably so! It can be difficult to change, especially without adequate support. I believe that learning how to cook & bake healthfully in your own home is a critical step in adapting to healthful gluten-free living on a budget. Preparing your own food does take time. I know people are very busy today, however, preparing extra food takes little additional time and then you have leftovers in your fridge or freezer, ready for healthy, low cost meals on busy days.

Many home cooks choose to set aside a morning, afternoon or evening each week to prepare several dishes to set aside for eating later in the week or month. This is an excellent strategy that cuts down the amount of time you need to spend preparing food on a daily basis.

PhotobucketNext up by Dr. Selena Eon is Part 2 in this three part series, “How to Eat Gluten Free on a Budget.” If you have any questions about celiac disease, you are welcome to ask them in the comments section and they will be addressed in future articles.

Dr. Selena Eon practices in Bellevue, WA and you may contact her at
(206) 228-9537 or visit www.drselenaeon.com

Photobucket Dr. Nicole Sundene, NMD is a licensed Naturopathic Medical Doctor at Fountain Hills Naturopathic Medicine 16719 E Palisades Blvd, Suite 205, Fountain Hills, AZ 85268.

She believes we should utilize natural medicines to treat the root cause of disease rather than just treating symptoms, as symptoms are a message of imbalance sent from the body and will persist until they are properly addressed.

For appointments please visit http://FHnaturopathic.com for more information about Naturopathic Medicine services.
©KitchenTableMedicine.com, LLC ™