Vodka is primarily made from gluten-based grains like barley, wheat and rye. But, is vodka gluten-free? Our guide has the answers.
Pure, natural distilled vodka is gluten-free, even if it has been made with gluten-based grains such as rye, wheat and barley. And, it should be safe to consume for people with gluten intolerance. But, make sure you only buy vodka from gluten-free certified brands if you have gluten intolerance.
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Vodka has been around for thousands of years. During the ancient times, vodka was more commonly used as a medicine. With time, its use would evolve to use as a drink. Whereas it started as a drink of low quality, there was an improvement in its quality, and eventually, to its popularity.
Today, it remains one of the most popular alcoholic beverages, enjoyed by millions of people across the globe. You can enjoy this alcoholic drink either in a cocktail or neat, depending on your preferences. In order to enhance its quality as a drink, both the US and the EU have a designated minimum alcohol content for vodka. Others such as crystal head vodka are regarded as a special drink.
And just like most of the other alcoholic beverages out there, vodka is mainly made from grains like barley, rice, sorghum, corn, wheat or rye. But, wheat, rye and barley are the main grains used to produce vodka. When preparing vodka, one ferments any food which contains starch or sugar.
These grains are then combined with water, followed by intense heating. Yeast will then be added along the way, to promote and enhance the fermentation process. With time, the sugars in the grain will then be converted into alcohol. This process is done in order to try and up the alcohol content for vodka.
From there, the ethanol or alcohol will be strained off from the mash. This liquid will be then used to make vodka. Vodka produced this way should be natural and neutral-flavored.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a gluey substance, found in several grains like barley, wheat and rye. It’s simply a form of protein that binds these grains, thus helping them to maintain their distinct shape.
If you’ve seen someone preparing dough for baking, it’s the gluten in the wheat that helps to maintain or create a stretchy consistency.
However, gluten is known to cause various issues, for people suffering from celiac disease. Also, some people have gluten intolerance. In other words, gluten may trigger immune reactions in individuals, some of which may be difficult to control.
All these groups of people, including people with celiac disease, need to take a gluten free diet and need to adopt gluten free living. People who have problems with gluten do not have an option but to prevent consuming it.
And, if they were to consume anything with gluten, they will experience adverse reactions associated with celiac disease like inflammations, rash, sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, nausea, asthma, itchy eyes, headaches, and generally feeling unwell, among others.
Does Vodka Contain Gluten?
From our discussion above, vodka is mainly made from rye, barley and wheat. And, these grains usually contain gluten, the gluey protein that binds them together.
So, does this also mean that wheat based vodka also contains gluten? Is vodka gluten-free? Is vodka safe for people with gluten intolerance? Is vodka naturally gluten free? Is there gluten free vodka in the market?
The reality is that as much as vodka is made from gluten-containing cereals and grains like rye, wheat and barley, health experts consider it gluten-free. The reasoning behind this is that the final process of producing vodka entails distillation. As a matter of fact, liquors which undergo distillation end up as gluten free and therefore safe for people with gluten sensitivity.
And, this distillation process will remove all the starting materials in the drink, which provided the starch and sugar. Consequently, any gluten that may have been in the vodka will also be removed, meaning it will be gluten-free.
Simply put, vodka is gluten-free, as long as the distillation process has been done properly and professionally. In other words, if the process is followed in the right way, then then someone with gluten sensitivity will not have a problem.
So, if you have gluten intolerance, gluten allergies or gluten sensitivities, then you shouldn’t have any issues consuming vodka, provided it’s properly distilled. On the other hand, if the distillation process for the vodka hasn’t been properly carried out, there’s a possibility of gluten being present in the final product.
But, gluten intolerance group may experience gluten-related complications after consuming vodka. And, while it’s not exactly clear why this is the case, experts believe the reason behind this is cross-contact or cross-contamination before, during or after the distillation process.
How To Buy Gluten-Free Vodka
Pure, natural distilled vodka is gluten-free, and by taking this product, you will be consuming gluten free vodka. And, it should be safe to consume for people with celiac disease, gluten allergies and gluten sensitivities, just like any gluten free diet.
As a matter of fact, many gluten grain based alcohol are considered gluten free and will be a diet fit for people with gluten sensitivity. Potato vodka is not only naturally gluten-free, but it is also sugar-free. In addition to that, potato vodka is flavored vodka.
But, to be on the safe side, there are some measures you can take to ensure you only buy gluten-free vodka.
First, you should only buy vodka from brands with gluten-free certification. Vodka from such brands has been tested and certified gluten-free.
It is becoming a more common practice for manufacturers to be more transparent to the consumers. Again, the consumers, on their part, should practice consumer rights.
Second, it will be advisable to avoid vodka with flavorings and additives. Such additives may contain gluten.
And, as much as the label may say that the vodka is gluten-free, people who are highly sensitive to gluten may still experience gluten-related symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, bloating, and constipation, among others.
So, it will be in your best interests to avoid any vodka with flavorings or additives, regardless of what the label says to check if it's certified gluten free or labeled gluten free.
Third, you should consider buying vodka that hasn’t been formulated with gluten-containing grains. And, there are hundreds of such vodkas in the market, made from alternatives like potatoes, grapes, peaches, and natural, gluten-free corn.
Lastly, if you have celiac disease, and you are not sure of the gluten status of a certain product, then you should ask a medic. Your own doctor will be of much help when you are not able to make a decision on the food or drinks to consume.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker