Ask Shelley Case: Are there any alcoholic beverages that are gluten-free?

Question: On hot summer days, many people like to enjoy a cool, refreshing alcoholic beverage. Are there any alcoholic beverages that are gluten-free?

Answer: There has been a lot of misinformation about the gluten-free status of alcohol. The good news is that many alcoholic beverages are gluten-free. So lift up your glass and let’s toast to this good news! Here is the scoop…

Distilled Alcoholic Beverages:

Rye whiskey, scotch whiskey, gin, vodka and bourbon are distilled from a mash of fermented grains. Even though these alcoholic beverages can be derived from a gluten-containing grain, the distillation process removes the gluten from the purified final product, so they are gluten-free. Rum (distilled from sugar cane) and brandy (distilled from wine) are also gluten-free.

However, be aware that some pre-made Bloody Mary and Caesar beverage mixes may contain barley malt flavoring or hydrolyzed wheat protein and are not gluten-free so check the label on these items.

Liqueurs (also known as cordials):

These are made from an infusion of a distilled alcoholic beverage with added sugar and flavoring agents such as nuts, fruits, seeds, flowers or cream. Liqueurs are gluten-free.

Wine (including vermouth, port and sherry):

Wines are made from fermented grapes or other fruits. There are also fortified wines such as vermouth; port and sherry which include an added brandy or another distilled alcohol. All these wines are gluten-free.

Wine Coolers:

Historically most wine coolers were gluten-free as they were made from wine, fruit juice, a carbonated beverage and sugar. However in 1991 the US Congress increased the excise tax on wine so many producers substituted malt (from barley) for the wine. Any malt-based coolers are not gluten-free.


Alcoholic and non-alcoholic ciders are made from apple juice. Sparkling cider is made with apple cider and a carbonated beverage. Most ciders are gluten-free but some brands may use barley in its production and are not gluten-free. The best bet is to check with the manufacturer to determine if they are gluten-free.

Beer, Ale and Lager:

The basic ingredients in beer, ale and lager include malted barley, hops (a type of flower), yeast and water. As this mixture is only fermented and not distilled, it contains varying levels of gluten and must be avoided. However, a variety of gluten-free specialty  beers are now on the market made from various gluten-free grains such as buckwheat, sorghum, millet and rice.

Note: Always remember that although certain alcoholic beverages can be included in a gluten-free diet, it must be consumed responsibly and in moderation!

Ask Shelley Case is a feature of It is published the second Tuesday of each month. Shelley Case is a Registered Dietitian, Consulting Dietitian, Speaker and Author of Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide. Visit Shelley and get more gluten-free tips & info at:

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3 Responses to “Ask Shelley Case: Are there any alcoholic beverages that are gluten-free?”

  1. Richard Says:

    Wine casks are sealed with a paste. I’ve heard that some of these pastes are made from wheat. Are these wines safe?

  2. Susan Says:

    So why do I feel so lousy/achy after drinking wine, vodka or regular beer?

    Wine I can understand because they add SUGAR and beers add YEAST which can be a problem but is there any other reasons for getting so achy the next day when having 1-2 drinks with dinner?

    I believe most gluten free beers contain SORGHUM which is related to CORN so I have trouble with them also.

    I have been trying potato vodka with a small amount of fruit juice and club soda but still seem to get achy.

  3. sus Says:

    I heard that wine enhances “allergy” reaction, because it makes other ingredients to absorb faster. Itself wine is safe. I also heard that some vodkas made from crude oil instead of wheat because it cheaper that way. The country that my grand parents live in sells grout milled vodka and of course potato vodka. When I will visit I would defenetly try it, after finding out first if it has mixed with anything else and they used pure grout millet or potatoes.
    I would be suspicious about anything that is not tequila, rum and wine. I work as a bartender and it is hard for me to figure out all ingredients since ingredients not always on the labels and some of my customers and myself are celiac or has allergy to wheat.

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