Is Vodka Gluten-free?
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Nov 11 2009

Is Vodka Gluten-free?

All vodkas are gluten-free unless gluten containing flavors have been added to them. Vodkas made from corn, soy, potatoes and even wheat are gluten-free.  This is true of all distilled spirits. Unfortunately for many years, scientists didn’t understand that the gluten protein is removed in the distillation process so people were told they had to avoid all alcohols that were distilled from gluten grains.

While it’s very unfortunate that rumors abound that most alcohols contain gluten, most of them actually don’t. Unless specifically made to be gluten-free, beers contain gluten because they are brewed, not distilled. Several gluten-free beers are now available in the U.S. The most widely distributed brand being Redbridge by Anheiser- Busch. One of the most popular domestic brands is Bard’s Tale and Green’s from Belgium ranks as one of the favorite imports.

Some of the most popular distilled spirits that are gluten-free (as long as no gluten flavors have been added to them) are:

  • Bourbon
  • Rum
  • Vodka
  • Tequila
  • Gin
  • Scotch
  • Brandy

Some people report that they react to alcohols made with gluten grains so they might choose to avoid consuming them. Even though the science that proves distilled alcohols are gluten-free has been in evidence for several years, the old information about them won’t seem to go away. There is not a problem with anyone avoiding anything they choose to. The problem arises when people share inaccurate information with others.

According to every celiac specialist in the world and Shelley Case, the foremost authority on the gluten-free diet in North America, the gluten protein is not present in grain alcohols once they have been distilled, period. People can choose to believe scare mongers on the internet or they can believe the experts on the subject. There is enough to worry about when on the gluten-free diet without worrying about items that are actually safe to consume.

Pure distilled alcohols with no flavorings added are gluten-free. Many flavored alcohols are gluten-free as well, but you need to check with the manufacturer of such drinks regarding their gluten-free status. There is a helpful website, GlutenFreeDrinks, that lists specific brands and their statements regarding gluten. Clan Thompson sells a gluten-free alcohol guide and The Essential Gluten-Free Grocery Guide lists quite a few flavored drink mixers as well.

Wine is also gluten-free, though there is also a lot of misinformation floating around about wine as well. Wine that is made from just grapes is considered gluten-free. The exception for wine is wine coolers. Most of those are made with barley malt and therefore they are NOT gluten-free. So, this holiday season have some champagne (yes, it’s gluten-free) to celebrate the many recreational beverages that are absolutely gluten-free!

References:

Have a question about the gluten-free diet which we haven’t covered yet?  You can now submit your questions here! (Note: All medical questions should be directed to your physician)

Article Written by:

Tiffany is considered a gluten-free advocate as well as the most discriminating gluten-free diner around. Her goal is to help others learn that there is life after a celiac diagnosis. Gluten-free dining and travel are two of her favorite things to do. Tiffany is a contributing writer and the Advertising Manager at "Delight gluten free" magazine. Check out her local blog, Gluten-Free Atlanta, for tips and tricks about living gluten-free in the ATL! Follow Tiffany on Twitter!

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  • Jody

    Very informative article thanks for the info.

  • James G

    Having read this article my roommate made me drinks with Grey Goose without my knowledge and my reaction was the worst I’ve ever occurred. I’m all about science I’d ask who sponsored that study!

  • http://www.glutenfreepromotions.com Tiffany Janes

    James – I’m sorry to hear that and since I just saw an ad for flavored Grey Goose vodkas, you probably want to make sure your friend didn’t use one of those. They might be gluten-free, but the only one I know of that is said to be gluten-free is the plain old vodka. Sometimes companies use gluten containing flavoring agents, though that trend has slowed a bit over the last few years. To answer your question, people in several countries studied the grains, but as far as know, none of them were sponsored by alcoholic beverage companies. In fact, in my opinion, many of those companies don’t even seem to want our business so they could care less what the studies show. I happened to know someone with celiac who’s vodka of choice is Grey Goose. Additionally, GIG certified the gluten-free menu for Bugaboo Creek, including their Moose Juice cocktail that is made with plain Grey Goose vodka. Of course, if you reacted to it, you should avoid it. Some people report they can’t tolerate distilled alcohols so they simply avoid them.

  • Denise

    During the summer, I enjoyed tonic water mixed with Absolut peach flavored vodka. Although I had no reaction, I’m wondering if I should stay away from it because of the flavor additives. Your reply would be appreciated!

  • Evan

    Wow… interestng. It depends on the person’s sensitivity. Maybe vodka is ok for some people who happen to not have reactions from it. As much as I WISH I could drink any non flavored liquor I want, some things cause a reaction, and some things don’t. Since when is every person’s gluten sensitivity identical? Science has said a LOT of things that have been later taken back or proven wrong, so why should ANYONE take every word said as if this is math, where everything is black and white?

  • http://www.glutenfreepromotions.com Tiffany Janes

    Denise – I’ve never checked on Absolute flavored vodkas so you might want to contact the company about them.

    Evan – I agree if anything makes you sick you probably want to avoid it. There are things in some liquors that some people can’t tolerate which have nothing do do with gluten, but I agree that everyone is different and should pay attention to their individual needs when it comes to health.

  • Hannah

    It is interesting that the gluten protein is no longer present in the distilled vodka, but isn’t vodka most typically made from wheat?

    I am not celiac but I am highly intolerant to wheat specifically and to some other grains as well.For my health I eat a gluten free diet. I have discovered for myself that I can drink potato, corn and grape vodkas just fine but when I imbibe grain based alcohols i become sick. Like James I cannot drink Grey Goose but I can drink monopolowa vodka.

  • Sabrina Simms

    Distilled alcohol may be gluten free but many gluten intolerant people suffer from irritable bowel disease and alcohol is a leading cause of gastrointestinal disorders.

  • Lisa

    so what are some vodkas that you know for sure are gluten free that dont have the flavorings added to them

    • http://www.glutenfreepromotions.com Tiffany Janes

      Distilled vodkas are gluten-free. However, some people don’t tolerate alcohol well including vodkas made with corn, potatoes, soy or grapes. People that have reactions to certain drinks might want to avoid them. Some flavored vodkas are gluten-free as well. Contact individual companies regarding the gluten free status of their products.

  • me

    The distillation process SUPPOSEDLY removes the gliadin protein molecule (gluten) but obviously people with Celiac and other people with wheat sensitivities are still getting sick from from products distilled from wheat. So, it either doesn’t get removed, doesn’t get removed enough, or there are other contamination factors in the processing plant that are getting in AFTER the distillation process. Whatever the case may be, I personally will only drink and eat products from dedicated GF facilities because I HAVE gotten sick from a variety of things that were SUPPOSEDLY gluten free and it takes me MONTHS before I feel better. Anyway, distilling is supposed to remove the gluten but my body tells me from experience that the distilling either doesn’t remove it, doesn’t remove enough of it or there is some other contamination occurring after it does.

    • A

      Honestly the issue might be deeper than gluten.
      Allergy science immature and it might be true there is no gluten and something in grain still rubs you raw.

  • Joan

    Just about everyone with Celiac is different in what symptoms we have and how we react to various foods, drink, etc. . If something gives you a bad reaction — don’t use it.

  • Deborah

    I keep a very strict GF diet and couldn’t understand why I kept having serious bouts of nausea. … As soon as I switched to a potato based Vodka my problem went away. I’d recommend people sensitive to wheat or those that are Gluten intolerant, as I am, reconsider drinking grain based alcohol and avoid the unpleasant consequence.

  • http://www.thechefandthegrape.com kristof

    although there IS science to indicate that gluten-proteins are removed during the distillation process, I, too, have had severe reactions to wheat based distillates.

    New research is indicating that whilst gluten-proteins are removed during distillation, enough is left behind to cause a reaction in those with Celiac disease. This is because Celiac disease only needs MOLECULES to cause a reaction…

    Truly gluten-free distillates can only be created in a GF environment and with GF base items (grapes,fruit,potato,rice, etc).

  • Johnny

    I always wonder about the amount of alcohol that people drink to have a “gluten reaction”. A lot of symptoms also sound like a bad hangover… eg dehydration, diarrhea, headaches and sensitivity to light.
    Just a thought.

  • Cavernio

    I understand that distilled alcohol will leave just that, pure alcohol. I trust that the distillation process can nowadays be accurate enough that we can only get alcohol.
    But any alcohol you drink is NEVER going to be ‘pure’. If it were, then all distilled alcohols would taste the same!
    This article makes it sound like all the flavors in any hard liquor are added after the fact. This is just not true; if you aged rum and vodka under the exact same conditions you would still not get the same product. Rum will have ‘tails’ from sugar and vodka will have ‘tails’ from wheat or potatoe or what have you.

    While the article and me are confident that if a celiac or gluten sensitive person were to drink purely distilled wheat vodka they would be safe, no vodka you’ll buy is going to be purely distilled. Distilled vinegar is CH3COOH, but distilled spirits are not pure methanol.

    Now it may be the case that the gluten completely and utterly breaks down from the heat required for distillation anyways, so that even the tails that are inevitably added will not be glutinous, but I have yet to hear anyone tout this fact, only people saying, like this article, that distilled is distilled so duh it’s safe.

    It furthermore begs the question that, for example, even if gluten as a whole protein may be broken down and that even if gliadin is broken down, some studies also show that glutenin is also a factor involved in celiac disease. As someone already pointed out, it’s not gluten as a whole protein that makes a celiac’s immune system react poorly, it’s only sections of gluten that cause the problems.

    And lastly there is gluten sensitivity, a connected yet separate entity than celiac disease which very poorly understood. Even the genetics involve in just people with celiac disease aren’t all the same. Therefore it seems presumptuous to expect that all celiac’s immune systems will react in the exact same way to the exact same proteins and partial proteins.

    But yeah, the only thing this article is saying is that methanol doesn’t have gluten.

    • A

      I agree it may be about more than gluten. All this article is trying to do it seems is pass on the basic education that pure vodka done right, by definition, is gluten free…

  • Kelli

    This is not true. Vodka’s made with wheat or barley may not be distilled enough to get the gluten out. I can tell you I have had Smirnoff Vodka and been fine, I’ve had Kettle One, Grey Goose and Absolut and had horrible stomach pain from it. Those are made from wheat or barley. Only drink the ones that are made from grape, corn or potato!!

  • Ben

    Cavernio – Just FYI…Methanol (CH3OH), usually referred to as Wood Alcohol, is poisonous.

    Ethanol is the drinkable one.

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  • Alicia

    You have cleared the air for me. I have wondered for a long time about that beings I have a intolerance to gluten. A lot of people have made a point to say watch out when you drink for alcohol having gluten in it. I have noticed some advertise it but most don’t. I was looking at purchasing titos vodka because they advertise on the bottle that it is naturally gf. Where as all their competition had nothing of the sort. Titos was at a 5.00 higher price point for a smaller bottle. After reading your blog I decided to go the other route with the purchase of Costco American VODKA. I hear it’s amazing. Thanks again.

    • http://nosacredc0w.wordpress.com NoSacredCow

      You should go with the Tito’s. It’s better than the expensive vodka’s. I’ve been a vodka drinker for over 30 years and have tried a great deal of them. It’s smooth and has a clean finish, straight or as a mixer. If you have to worry about a $5.00 price difference between Tito’s and a bottom shelf Costco vodka that came out of a tanker truck, should you really be drinking at all?

  • Jason Holmers

    This article is correct but doesn’t paint the whole picture. While it is true that wheat distilled is gluten free, all vodkas are not gluten free. This is because huge distilleries are unable to properly distill vast amounts of vodka from wheat. Therefore, vodka distilled in mass volume from wheat is most likely not gluten free. If your sensitive or have celic, DO NOT drink wheat distilled vodka. Go for ciroc or corn distilled vodka.