Gluten-free Drinking at Bars: A Complete Guide

This guide to gluten-free drinking at bars should help you stay safe and social with celiac disease.

When you have to live gluten-free it can feel pretty restrictive in how you can socialize. That doesn’t mean however, you can’t go out to socialize. With the proper precautions you can go to bars and restaurants with others safely. Here’s how…

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What Should I avoid at Bars when Gluten-Free?

There are a couple of things to avoid at bars when you’re gluten-free. If you have celiac you must watch out for cross-contact. If you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, cross-contact might not be a must, but there are still somethings to watch out for.

Regardless of celiac or gluten sensitivity, you likely want to:

  • Be cautious of anything on tap: ideally tap lines are sanitized between use but you won’t know for sure if they are. This can be a point of cc, so ideally you’re ordering drinks not from the tap.
  • Avoid beer: the most obvious drink to avoid is beer, which is mostly made from gluten containing grains.
  • Avoid gluten removed or gluten reduced beer: despite gluten being removed/reduced, we don’t have any way of testing to confirm this. To learn more check out Celiac Simplified’s blog post.
  • Make sure your cup is actually washed and not just rinsed when serving your drink. You may need to specify a clean glass from the back of the house to ensure this.
  • Avoid anything you’re unsure about: or anything the bartender is unsure about. My motto is “if you don’t know, say no”.

What to Tell the Bartender when You're Gluten-Free

When gluten-free drinking at bars, ideally, you want to talk to your bartender about your needs and ideally, you want to be thinking clearly when you have this conversation (I.E. not a few drinks in).

Usually, I say something like, “I have a gluten allergy is there anything you know that is safe to drink?”.

If you’re ordering a mixed drink, make sure to limit cross contact by asking them to wash the shaker or ask for your drink to be stirred not shaken.

Make sure if they are washing the shaker or cups, that they aren’t just rinsing. Make sure they are being taken to the back to be washed with soap and water.

Alcohols that are Usually Safe For Gluten-Free People

As always do you own research to determine the appropriateness of products for you, with that said there are some generally safe gluten-free and alcohols you can consume:

  • Hard Cider (most carry gluten-free claims but watch out for some that still contain trace amounts (like Hornsby and Harpoon)).
  • Vodka (made from potatoes)
  • Gin (made from potatoes)
  • Rum (except Bacardi Silver)
  • Tequila (100% from agave – watch out for tequila labled “mixto”)

In the above list I specify alcohols made with gluten-free ingredients, but it is safe for you to consume distilled alcohols made from gluten-containing grains as long as no gluten-containing ingredients are added back in after distillation (learn more on distilled alcohol safety here).

I specifically listed alcohols brewed with gluten-free ingredients because many (including myself) have a preference for them. Additionally, some people find they still inexplicably react to gluten-derived alcohols (This may be due to intestinal damage, alcohol intolerance, or other unaddressed food issues).

Generally gluten-Free Cocktails to Order at Bars

  • Cosmopolitan cocktail – (vodka (make sure it’s safe), triple sec, cranberry juice, citrus peels)
  • Daiquiri – (light rum, lime juice, simple sugar syrup) be more aware of frozen daiquiris, just make sure the ingredients are up to your standards
  • Mojitos – (featuring white rum, it’s usually safe)
  • Margaritas(made from tequila (make sure it meets your standards), it’s usually safe but as always ask the bartender to check the mix they’re using (if they use one) to make sure it’s safe)
  • Moscow Mule(vodka (make sure it’s safe), ginger beer, and lime juice)
  • Mexican Mule(tequila (make sure it’s safe), ginger beer, lime juice, and Cointreau (alcohol made from orange peels))
  • And any safe gluten-free alcohol mixed with club soda or juice (or both). Just be mindful of what’s going into your drinks and of course, let your bartender know about your needs.

Last Call...

Those are my tips for gluten-free drinking at bars. My LAST tip is to go out with good friends/family who will advocate for you. I have friend’s who sometimes do better than me at making sure what I am ordering is safe. Sometimes it’s nice to have additional advocates by your side!

Also if you do happen to get glutened here are some tips for recovery. And make sure that you’re accessing support when recovering too, support is more powerful than you think!

Want more on how to order gluten-free drinks and food at restaurants? Click the button below to buy my Celiac Cross-Contact workbook. It covers questions to ask, things to order, and more when dining out.

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