A girl walks into a bar… and she wants a gluten-free drink.
According to a survey from The NPD Group, 30% of Americans are interested in cutting back or avoiding gluten in their diets. Reasons range from celiac disease and wheat allergies to gluten sensitivity and personal preference.
No matter the reason, it seems that gluten-free is here to stay. As a result, bars and restaurants are working hard to increase their gluten-free menu options. In order to increase customer satisfaction and avoid missing out on a huge share of your customer base, offering gluten-free alcohol options can really open up the doors for your patrons.
If you’re unsure of what drinks are gluten-free, the idea of stocking your bar with gluten-free options might seem a bit intimidating. The good news is, adding a few drinks to your arsenal shouldn’t put you back by much, and you probably have some gluten-free options already stocked.
To start those gears in motion, we’ve created a list of gluten-free alcohol options.
When you think of gluten-free alcohol, your mind might jump to the new gluten-free beer trend. In order to accommodate the ⅓ of Americans trying to shun gluten, beer companies have rushed to create different styles of gluten-free beers. As a result, there are hundreds of these beers to choose from.
When you make the move to stock your bar with some gluten-free beers, you should consider taste, cost, and availability.
Unfortunately, gluten-free beer often gets a bad rap. Luckily, it’s come a long way in recent years and there are a slew of taste-testers out there who can help you find the best-tasting options. You can find their reviews on resources like Beeradvocate and other gluten-free blogs.
In addition to online research, you can also organize your own gluten-free beer taste test! Here at BevSpot, we decided to set up our own. Although the gluten-free beer selection near our office wasn’t the best, we were able to find Glutenberg, a gluten-free beer brewed in the heart of Montreal. We purchased a 4-beer variety pack with Indian Pale Ale, Red Ale, Blonde Ale, and American Pale Ale. Here’s what we thought (in a bulleted, unfiltered format):
GF India Pale Ale (6%)
- smells tangy, citrusy (grapefruit) and vanilla-y
- tastes pretty bitter
- super hoppy
GF Red Ale (5%)
- smells a bit nutty and vanilla-y
- it’s creamy like coffee
- crazy creamy, it’s like a vanilla milkshake
- taste some brandy
- extra carbonated for a red ale
- it’s got a toastiness to it
GF Blonde Ale (4.5%)
- doesn’t smell like much, smells like a keg in college
- doesn't really taste like anything
- maybe tastes like honey in sparking water
- has some ginger notes
- it’s smooth
- some tartness
- kind of tastes like Bud Light
GF American Pale Ale (5.5%)
- I would drink this
- it’s quite nice
- slightly hoppy
- a little bit malty
- kinda tastes like beer
- a little more tart
All in all, we felt Glutenberg was a pretty decent alternative for gluten-free drinkers. It didn’t taste too different compared to a regular beer, and we discovered that the brewery won gold, silver and bronze awards in the “Gluten-free beer category” at the 2012 World Beer Cup.
A mass-produced six-pack of gluten-free beer like Redbridge usually costs between $9 and $10. More crafty, small-batch beers like the Alchemist Celia Saison cost almost $11. You can stock your bar based on your own preference or the feedback you get from customers. Either way, when you price your drink, you should aim for a pour cost of 20%. To figure out the right pricing, test drive our drink price tool!
Depending on where you’re located, some gluten-free beer might be hard to get your hands on. Some of the craft beers might not be supplied to your city or state, in fact some of the highest-rated gluten-free beer is brewery-only. You also might be surprised to find that even Anheuser Bush’s Redbridge is sometimes difficult to find. Check with your suppliers to see which beers are supplied to your area!
Beer Suggestions: Stock your bar with some popular favorites like Stone Brewing Co. Delicious IPA, Omission Lager, and Harvester Fresh Hop IPA.
Gluten-Free Hard Cider
Luckily, most hard cider is a viable gluten-free option. Many cider houses confirm that their products are gluten-free. However, watch out for ciders like Hornsby’s and Harpoon because they contain trace amounts of gluten. You definitely don’t want to accidentally offer these as gluten-free options to your patrons.
For an added bonus, make room for a gluten-free cider or two on draught!
Cider Suggestions: To give your customers some variety, purchase filtered cider options like Woodchuck, ACE, and Angry Orchard or unfiltered cider like Downeast.
Most wine is gluten-free (below the legal limit of 20 parts per million of gluten), with the exception of wine that has added flavors or coloring such as some dessert wines.
Although most gluten-free people will be able to consume any type of wine, if you want to go above and beyond, consider purchasing a wine option that’s aged in stainless steel casks and not fined with micronized wheat to avoid cross-contamination.
Wine Suggestions: Cupcake Vineyards claims to be gluten-free because they avoid using wheat, barley or rye during production, and Frey Vineyards is completely gluten-free because they use stainless steel casks and only use bentonite clay as a fining agent.
The National Institute of Health advises that distilled alcohol is gluten-free, regardless of its original source. In this case, any unflavored vodka, gin, rum, and whiskey should be a safe gluten-free option. However, experts still disagree whether celiacs and the gluten-sensitive can consume distilled alcohol originally derived from gluten grains. To play it safe, some gluten-free customers might ask for liquor made with potatoes or grapes, or tequila that is 100% agave.
Vodka: Consider stocking your bar with Tito’s, a popular potato-derived, gluten-free favorite, or with some of these other gluten-free vodka options.
Gin: If customers are looking for a gluten-free gin option, stock your bar with gin made from potatoes such as Maine Distilleries’ Cold River Gin or Monopolowa Dry Gin.
Rum: When it comes to rum, most are gluten-free. However, Bacardi Superior has confirmed all of their products are gluten-free with the exception of Bacardi Silver. If customers are looking for dark rum, you can offer them Captain Morgan.
Whiskey: Queen Jennie Whiskey, crafted by the Old Sugar Distillery, is a gluten-free Whiskey option.
Tequila: Offer quality 100% agave tequila like Espolón Reposado or Patron Silver to gluten-free consumers and to customers looking for quality, classically made tequilas.
If you’re a little overwhelmed by all of these added options, fear not; you don’t necessarily need to stock gluten-free options for every single type of alcohol. After you decide which gluten-free options to include, be sure to create a separate drink menu listing the specific offerings, and advertise your gluten-free drink menu.
As you test out your gluten-free drink menu, use BevSpot to track your gluten-free beverage sales in order to continuously make informed purchase decisions. Stocking your bar with a high-demand, gluten-free variety will help you expand your customer base, meet customer demand, and set yourself apart from the competition.