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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Guide to Gluten-Free Drinking at Bars - Tayler Silfverduk DTR - how to order drinks at the bar, how to drink safely at a bar, gluten-free bartending #glutenfreecocktails #glutenfreebar #glutenfreedrinking #glutenfreedrinks how to drink gluten-free at a bar, gluten-free drinking at bars, gluten-free alcohol, gluten-free alcoholic drinks, alcohol and celiac #celiacdietitian #glutenfreedietitian #gfree

What Should I avoid at Bars when Drinking 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: we don’t have validated testing for measuring the amount of hydrolyzed gluten peptides in fermented foods and research shows celiacs may still react, so it’s best to avoid these. Please note, the removal of gluten from beer is different from the distillation process.
  • 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”.

For more on avoiding cross-contact with celiac disease, I go in-depth in my Celiac Crash Course! It’s a self-paced course to teach recently diagnosed celiacs step-by-step, how to stay celiac safe.

Gluten-Free Alcohol to Drink at Bars

When ordering drinks at a bar, it’s good to know what gluten-free alcohol is available for you to enjoy. You can always call bars a head of time as a part of your research so you make the safest decisions. As always do you own research to determine the appropriateness of gluten-free drinks for you. However, below are some generally safe options.

In general, distilled alcohol is safe as long as it is pure distilled alcohol. This is because the distillation process removes all gluten, as gluten is too heavy to be evaporated out with the alcohol in the distilling process.

As of 2020, the TTB, which regulates distilled alcohols in the USA, now allows distilled alcohol to use the term “gluten-free” even if the product was started with gluten due to the distillation process removing gluten to safe levels. However, the “gluten-free” term can only be used if the finished product has not had any gluten containing ingredients added back in. Bacardi Rum Silver is an example of an alcohol that has ingredients added after distillation that makes it unsafe.

Hard Cider is another gluten-free alcohol to enjoy at bars. It is fermented fruit juice (typically apple). Always double check with the bar about the gluten-free status though, as some ciders may have gluten ingredients added in, like malt.

Liqueurs can be gluten-free but because these are distilled alcohols with flavorings and sugar added in, double check on the safety of these products.

Wine is another great gluten-free alcohol to order at bars because it’s almost always gluten-free. Just be careful of flavored wine drinks like cocktails with wine (always checking ingredients involved) and wine coolers.

What to Tell Bartenders When Drinking Gluten-Free at Bars

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?”. – Yes, I am aware that there isn’t a such thing as a true “gluten allergy”, so if you feel more comfortable educating and sharing about celiac disease, be my guest. I find saying I have a “gluten allergy” gets me better results.

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.

Additionally, be careful of garnishes. Sliced citrus could be an easy place for cross-contact occur. Especially if the bartenders are responsible for cutting them.

For more on getting comfortable dining out with celiac disease, I cover this in-depth in the Gluten-free Dining Course! Check it out here!

Alcohols With Gluten-Free Ingredients to Order at bars

For my celiac and gluten-free friends who prefer alcohol that is derived from gluten-free ingredients only. Below are some naturally gluten-free alcohols to choose.

  • 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”)

Remember, it is safe to enjoy distilled alcohols from gluten grains (learn more on distilled alcohol safety here) but some people find they still react or have a preference to avoid these alcohols.

Generally Gluten-Free Cocktails to Order at Bars

When it comes to ordering gluten-free drinks from bars, you have quite a few options. Below are some generally gluten-free cocktails to order but of course, always verify safety with your bartender.

  • Cosmopolitan cocktail – (vodka, 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, 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, ginger beer, and lime juice)
  • Mexican Mule(tequila, ginger beer, lime juice, and Cointreau (alcohol made from orange peels))
  • Vodka Cran or Cape Codder – (a vodka cranberry drink that should be gluten-free)
  • Negroni – (featuring gin, campari, and wine)
  • Limoncello Collins – (Limoncello, lemon/lime juice, sugar and vodka)
  • 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.

And, if you see a drink on the menu that sounds good, ask the bartender about its safety! Just because a drink wasn’t on the list above, doesn’t mean it isn’t an option!

Alcohol can Cause GI Distress

Before we wrap up ordering gluten-free drinks at a bar, it’s important to note that you might do everything right and still react. It can be tricky when alcohol is at play as it’s tough to know if you’ve been glutened or maybe you’re reacting to alcohol.

First, alcohol can impact nutrient absorption in the gut. Basically, it can cause nutrients to be malaborsbed and trigger similar symptoms to gluten exposure with celiac.

Additionally, alcohol can worsen reflux. This is because alcohol relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter which stops food from coming back up. This relaxation can prevent that esophageal from protecting food from coming back up and causing reflux.

Lastly, alcohol can slow your digestive system. This slowing down can cause gas build-up, bloating, and other GI distress.

For me, I have alcohol intolerance and know that when I drink, it’s going to feel like I’ve been severely glutened. This is something to pay attention to, and something that may get better as your small intestine heals.

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? Want to reduce your chances of getting glutened at restaurants/bars and dine out more at the same times?  I teach you how in the Gluten-Free Dining Course.

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