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Allergens, Diets & Dietary Restrictions in Alcohol

Updated: Mar 5

Spirits and allergens

With different diets becoming more common by choice or health reasons, the question of what to offer those looking for alternative alcoholic beverages is asked more often.

Even though sometimes questions like 'do you happen to have anything vegan-friendly?' may result in an eye roll, all diets and allergies should be taken seriously. It is impossible to know the reasons behind a person's dietary requirements, and who are we to judge? We would also like to point out that the responsibility for allergens falls on both sides: the person asking for dietary options should be somewhat aware of what they can have, and the person making a recommendation shouldn't do so blindly.

So, to help everybody out, we decided to look into some of the most common dietary options and allergens people might encounter. Please note that alcohol should always be enjoyed in moderation, but if a person suffers from liver damage or other alcohol-related illnesses, or an Alcohol Intolerance, the best way to stay safe is to stay away.

An Ardvark Tip! Are you working in hospitality, serving drinks, or selling spirits? For awesome customer service, try to memorize a couple of options from the range available at your workplace from each category. So the next time a customer is looking for a product to suit their dietary requirements, you already have an answer at hand. Serving others may come with great responsibility.


Gluten-Free Diet

According to Coeliac UK, drinking spirits do not affect the condition. Of course, alcohol is unhealthy in large amounts no matter your health status, but a gluten-free diet allows many alcohols to still be consumed. Most cocktails are also deemed safe since grains are not used in common mixers.

Spirits are made by distilling grains or sugar, and all traces of gluten have been removed during the distillation process. But when it comes to brewing beer, starch is still present; therefore, drinking beer should be avoided. Nowadays, there are alternatives to beer, and gluten-free options are made widely available.

Gluten-free diet and allowed alcohols

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Sugar-Free & Low-Carb Diet

A person who is going for the low-sugar diet is highly likely to go for a low-carb diet as well. Some people might have a condition such as diabetes that require them to limit their sugar intake.

Carbs turn into sugar (glucose) by human metabolism and are needed to build muscles. But if a person has chosen to restrict their sugar and carb intake, it's important to remember that choosing cocktails might become quite difficult. Fruits and vegetables are classified as carbs, and many mixers have them or are loaded with sugar.

Red wine has the lowest amount of sugar of all wines. And surprisingly even though beer contains a good amount of carbs, its sugar content is relatively low. Non-alcoholic beer on the other hand contains a huge amount of sugar. It's also important to remember that some fat-free products replace fats with sugar.

Most spirits will not have any sugar in them and a moderate amount of carbs, but watch out for liqueurs which by definition have a large amount of sugar added to them. Also, some rums might have added sugar after distillation to make them sweeter.

Sugar-free and low carb diet and allowed alcohols

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Vegan-Friendly Diet

Most spirits are considered vegan friendly since all 'impurities' have been filtered out during distillation. The exception is liqueurs that contain eggs, milk/ cream, or honey, which is usually stated on the labels. Please note that the Crème de -prefix in liqueurs refers to the sugar content and doesn't necessarily mean that it's not vegan-friendly.

When it comes to fermented alcohols like wine, beer, and cider, some may contain traces of animal products due to how and where they are made. According to the best site to visit and check a brand vegan status is, where you can easily type in the brand names and find out without having to do extensive research. Many times the use of gelatine, eggs, or isinglass will not be mentioned on the labels since it's not required by law.

Please note that many restaurant and bar workers only have a limited understanding of the vegan diet when it comes to alcohol. Many times vegans like to point out their dietary choice from the get-go - and in the case of ordering cocktails, rightfully so. But when it comes to certain brands, it might be impossible for the staff to know which ones are vegan-friendly and which are not. This is not a sign of incompetence, but an impossible task even for many vegans. The best way is to log in to Barnivore and check before ordering.

Vegan-friendly diet and allowed alcohols

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Nut-Free Diet

Having an anaphylactic shock during a night out definitely ruins a party, and someone having a nut allergy should always be taken seriously. Avoiding chocolate and nuts as treats is a good place to start, but surprisingly, many alcohols may also contain nuts.

Most spirits are safe for people with a nut allergy. The only exception is some gins that contain almonds, walnuts, or other nuts. Gins known to contain almonds include Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire, Brockman's Gin, and Citadelle. Needless to say, many liqueurs will also contain either chocolate or nuts, like Amaretto and Frangelico. Flavoured rums, whiskies, and vodkas may also add nuts.

When it comes to fortified wines, it is better to stay away since many of them may contain traces of nuts. Wines themselves don't have nuts even though some may have flavour characteristics that bring out the associated tastes.

Some beers may contain nuts and should be enjoyed with extreme caution. It is safe to say that restraining from experimenting with craft/ specialty beers, ales, and stouts is a good call.

Nut-free diet nut allergy and allowed alcohols

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Sulfites Sensitivity

According to the US-based FDA, around 1 in 100 people are sensitive to sulphites ranging from mild side effects to life-threatening conditions. Sulfites AKA Sulphur Compounds are an additive that prolongs the shelf-life of many everyday food items, but can also be found naturally in products in small amounts. In many alcohols, sulphites are used to prevent the formation of unwanted bacteria growth or turning into vinegar. In some instances, it's used purely for aesthetic reasons such as a clear, cloud-free appearance.

Spirits are deemed mainly safe from sulphites, but caution should be applied when dealing with some of the flavoured spirits on the market. The most well-known alcohol for sulphites is wine - and especially red wine. Beer, cider, and fortified wines will possibly also contain sulphites. Labelling laws vary by country, but some do require a written print if sulphites have been added.

sulphites sensitivity diet and allowed alcohols

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


Thank you for reading, and please follow us on social media with #whiskyardvark.

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