Raise a Glass to Being Gluten-Free. Avoid Grains, but Still Enjoy a Drink.
If you deal with gluten sensitivity or intolerance, enjoying a drink can be a bit of a challenge, especially if your favorite spirit is generally grain-based. Think you can’t enjoy a delicious cocktail because you are on a gluten-free diet? Think again. You just have to make the right choices.
Gluten intolerance, which in its most serious form is a hereditary autoimmune condition known as celiac disease, causes a person to have a physical reaction – from minor to serious — after ingesting gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Symptoms vary widely and can include joint pain, fatigue, depression, and gastrointestinal problems.
According to the National Institutes of Health’ Celiac Disease Awareness Campaign, drinking spirits made from distilled alcohol are safe for those with gluten intolerance because the distillation process removes the gluten proteins that cause the reaction. Still, other celiac organizations voice concern that not all the glutens are removed, or that some might even be added back to the spirits in processing. These groups recommend consuming only non-grain vodkas, rum, and tequila. So, you need to know your booze.
Ciders (apple and pear), most wines, rum and tequila, and some vodkas – made from grapes or potatoes (Tito’s, Chopin, Circoc) are all fair game. Likewise, some gins on the market are made with grapes (G’Vine) or even sweet potatoes, rather than the usual grain.
Whiskey is a tough one, as it is usually grain-based, meaning you might have to source out lesser known or available brands. Queen Jennie Sorghum Whiskey is made only from sorghum; Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey is 100% corn.
Sake, made from rice, and baijiu, a Chinese spirit traditionally made with sorghum, are also gluten-free alternatives. Regardless, always check the labels for additional ingredients, which vary from brand to brand, especially in flavored vodkas, and might include “hidden” ingredients or malting agents.
Speaking of malt, most beer is not gluten-free because it is made with hops, barley, and other non-gluten-free ingredients. Luckily, many companies are filling the void by creating new offerings that are gluten-free.
There are those who must avoid gluten for medical reasons; others are on a gluten-free diet by choice (think Paleo). If you must be gluten-free, for whatever reason, don’t despair. A gluten-free vodka or gin will let you make a dynamite martini, or gin/vodka and tonic. A corn-based whiskey is a great base for a Manhattan. Or, try one of the below cocktails. All are gluten-free and not missing a thing!
Beet Cocktail Smoothie
Courtesy of Simply Gluten Free
- 2 oz. Beet Syrup*
- 2 oz. Tequila
- 2 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
Preparation: Combine all the ingredients and blend with ice.
- 4 medium Beets
- 6 cups Water
- 1 cup Organic Blue Agave
Preparation: Peel the beets and cut into chunks. Place in a large saucepan with 6 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce temperature and simmer until the beets are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the beets from the liquid with a slotted spoon and reserve for another use. Bring the beet liquid back to a boil and let boil until reduced to 1 cup; about 25 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the agave and let cool.
Vanilla Latte Martini
Courtesy of All Day I Dream About Food
- 3 oz. Vanilla Vodka
- 2 oz. Coffee Liqueur
- 1 tbsp. Cream
Preparation: Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add coffee liqueur, vanilla vodka and cream. Shake well and divide between two chilled martini glasses.
Garden Fresh Bloody Mary
Courtesy of Delight Gluten Free Magazine
- 1 cup Diced Beets
- 1 cup Diced Celery
- 1 cup Diced Tomato
- Dash of Salt
- Dash of Pepper
- 1 oz. Vodka (can substitute Gin or Tequila)
- Optional: Dash of Cayenne Pepper or Red Pepper Flakes
Preparation: Process diced beets, celery and tomato through a juicer. Add spices and 1 ounce of vodka. Stir and garnish with fresh stalk of celery or celery leaves. For added spice, add cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes.
Ruby Red Tequila Cocktails
Courtesy of Martha Stewart
- 8 oz. Tequila (preferably reposado)
- 3 cups Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice
- 4 tsps. Fresh Lime Juice
Preparation: In a pitcher, combine tequila, grapefruit juice, and fresh lime juice. To serve, divide among four glasses filled with ice.
White-Chocolate Hot Cocoa with Coconut and Rum
Courtesy of Martha Stewart
- 1 cup Whole Milk
- 1 cup Unsweetened Coconut Milk
- 1 cup Heavy Cream
- 5 oz. White Chocolate, Chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 tbsp. Rum
Preparation: Warm milk, coconut milk, and cream in a medium saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add chocolate, and whisk until melted and combined. Continue to warm mixture until thick, about 5 minutes. Whisk in rum.
*Note: Look for good white chocolate made with pure cocoa butter (rather than vegetable fat), milk, sugar, and a touch of vanilla.
If you are gluten-intolerant, seek your doctor’s advice before imbibing.