Whether it’s a sensitivity, allergy, celiac disease, or personal choice, you’re always going to have drinkers who are avoiding gluten; here’s what you need to know to serve them.
Know Your Spirits
There are plenty of spirits that in theory are gluten free, but some may have cross-contamination or residual gluten depending on the production and bottling methods. Generally speaking, tequila, mezcal, rum, and wine are all gluten free, but always check if there are warnings on the label as they might be bottled in environments that also bottle products with gluten. While this may seem pedantic, for those with extreme allergies even a slight amount of gluten can cause severe reactions and pain.
Most vodka, regardless of what it’s made from, can be gluten-free thanks to the distillation process. However, this doesn’t make it safe for everyone. Instead, opt for vodkas made from gluten-free ingredients like corn or potatoes.
Lay Off the Mixers
When it comes to additional ingredients like mixers, liqueurs, and even sodas, figuring out what’s safe can be tricky. Ingredient lists can be long, complicated, and include ingredients that don’t seem like gluten up front. Worchester sauce, often used in Bloody Mary’s, can contain malt syrup which contains gluten. Most ingredients will specify if they are gluten-free, but if not, always double check.
Watch Your Brews
When it comes to beer, cider, and anything on tap, there are a few rules to follow. Because of how beer is made it almost always has gluten. There are some gluten-free beers on the market, as well as gluten-reduced beers, but these may still cause reactions for those with severe allergies. Cider is almost always safe, but note that seasonal or special brews made with additional ingredients and spices might not be. Another important consideration when working with beverages on tap is that if tap lines are not properly cleaned between uses cross-contamination can happen. With proper sanitation, this should not be a risk, but those with severe allergies may need to avoid drinks from the tap.
When In Doubt, Ask
One of the first things to note is that if a customer is celiac, you should make sure to wash your hands, and any tools you will be using to avoid cross contamination. To that end, if a customer asks for a drink without gluten, it’s worth asking for details if they are not specific. If they ask for a drink suggestion, you can clarify what spirits they’re comfortable with and see if there are ingredients they know are safe for them. With gluten allergies having such dramatic ranges of intensity, it’s always best to know what you’re working with to ensure you can mix up a drink that’s delicious and safe.