Alcohol and Food Allergies
June 26th, 2010 by Alice

This is simply to share what I know about various alcohols and their ingredients, since ingredients labeling currently is not required for alcohol in the United States. I have no expertise, simply some experiences in Seattle, WA. As always, use your own judgment, and please let me know about your own experiences.

Beer and Malt Beverages

Beer itself tends to be straightforward, but can have intriguing things mixed into it. I’m skeptical of beers with names that contain flavors and Christmastime “seasonal” ales (due to added spices and therefore nut).

Hops has a track record of causing contact dermatitis, and both of us find that it unsettles our stomachs. We’ve found Belgian ales to be lower in hops content.

Mike’s Hard Lemonade/Limeade etc – contain malt and other beer-like substances. I have not had a problem thus far.

Wine and the Like

Red Wine – contains sulfites

White Wine – also contains sulfites, but I can tolerate it. I don’t know if you can.

Mead – mead is traditionally made from honey. I’ve tried many meads, but I don’t try the ones that have spices in them or “mulled” meads.

Sake – mostly made from rice. There’s a special kind of mold, koji, that is used instead of yeast to encourage and control the fermentation. Sakes also can contain sulfites.

Vermouth – infused with “botanicals,” who knows what that means. Watch out for martinis, vermouth may be a wine, but it is spritzed over martinis.

Mixed Drinks, Liquor, Liqueurs, etc

WARNING Gin is usually infused with many flavors including nuts. Bombay Sapphire is one I know has almond. Dry Fly is one that I know does not contain any nuts whatsoever (the people at Dry Fly are also very nice about answering ingredients inquiries).

WARNING Maraschino cherries may contain almond, and some bartenders like to add cherries or cherry juice unexpectedly. Explain why cherries are a bad idea when ordering your drinks. Several other anecdotal commentors have indicated that Maraschino is usually just sugar and color, traditional has an almond-like flavor from the cherries themselves, sometimes this is done with apricot. In any case, unless I’m holding the jar in my hands I won’t deal with them, since sometimes they do have almond.

Vodka – vodka is a popular drink to flavor, so watch the added flavorings, but what it is made of CAN VARY. Just because you’ve heard that vodka is from potatoes doesn’t mean it all is. I personally have now seen wheat-, rye-, potato-, and honey-based vodkas. Given that though, I find plain vodkas a great starting point when I’m out, one that isn’t scary because they usually are either very plain or the flavor is broadcasted all over the label.

WARNING Absinthe – Even now that it is legal again, I have no plans to ever try it. First it’s anise flavored (which is one of my allergies), and second, I don’t have a good way to test my allergies to wormwood first. Thirdly it contains other undefined herbs.

WARNING Chartreuse – contains over a hundred herbal extracts. I’m not interested in trying this, or trying to figure out if I’m allergic to any of them, I’m sure I’m allergic to at least one.

WARNING Jägermeister – also contains a large number of herbs, fruits, spices etc. That’s too many for me. Jäger is common in mixed drinks, especially drinks that have reputations as NOT “girly” drinks. Some people One bar I have visited adds Jäger to Long Island Iced Tea, even though that is not traditional. Remember, I’m allergic to a few spices and apricot pits, so I don’t mess around with unknown ingredients. I’ve read claims that Jäger does not contain either nuts or peanuts, and as a secret recipe, I don’t know the actual ingredients.

WARNING Vermouth (technically a wine) vermouth is infused with “botanicals,” who knows what that means. Vermouth is spritzed over martinis. Okay, I’m super confused about vermouth. Because there’s a wine that you can drink, infused with botanicals, and dry vermouth is an ingredient in dry martinis … anything that says “botanicals” I stay AWAY from.

Scotch, Bourbon, Whiskey – usually start from barley, rye, or wheat and are aged in barrels (frequently oak). Sometimes those barrels have been used for other alcohols first (sherry or bourbon – yes, some scotches are aged in bourbon barrels). The grain is usually malted and sometimes smoked – leaving a peaty flavor. Laphroaig scotch usually starts with water from peat bogs, in addition to being smoked over peat. Single malt scotches have a name that they want to maintain, so they’re quite consistent between batches.

WARNING Frangelico – is a hazelnut liqueur. STAY AWAY. This is contained in the popular “chocolate cake” shot – a shot that tastes like chocolate cake but has no cake and no chocolate.

WARNING Amaretto – this is almond liqueur. STAY AWAY.

Godiva Chocolate and White Chocolate liqueur – I had a little bit of a not-so-fun feeling in my mouth on tasting the Godiva chocolate liqueur. Since I don’t know and can’t find the real ingredients I’m staying away.

WARNING Celtic Crossing – I reacted minorly to this. It tasted a bit like almonds. I don’t know what it actually was that caused the reaction.

Kaluah – I’m pretty sensitive to peanuts and tree nuts and I don’t have a problem with this coffee-flavored liqueur. Jason won’t try it though because of his coffee sensitivity and general legume allergy.

Brandy, Cognac, Port – all of these start with wine. I said above that I don’t do red wines for the sulfites, but I haven’t had a problem with brandy or cognac. Port sometimes makes me sneeze, but I like tawny port anyway.

Grand Marnier – a citrus-flavored cognac

Rum – I haven’t tried the spiced rums, but both dark and white rum are pretty straightforward. They start from cane sugar, and some dark rums are aged in barrels.

Cointreau – citrus-flavored, but is NOT a cognac. This liqueur doesn’t start with wine. I have no clue what it really is, but I’m not allergic to it and neither is Jason.

Chambord – dark, berry-flavored. That’s all I’ve got. I’m not allergic to it and neither is Jason.

Tequila – is made from agave syrup. This does bother Jason, and if you’re sensitive to cacti or tropical fruits I’d be careful of it. I recommend getting tested or challenging agave before trying tequila.

General Advice

Alcohol impairs judgment. If you have food allergies, alcohol may make it harder to make the right decision about using your EpiPen or taking your Benadryl. Surround yourself with trustworthy friends when drinking and call for help if you’re not sure about something.

I have heard some reports that alcohol can speed up allergic reactions or make you more sensitive than usual. Please be cautious.

Benadryl and alcohol can mix badly as they’re both sedatives, so be careful. Follow your doctor’s instructions at all times. I have found consulting nurses, on-campus nurses, and doctors perfectly willing to discuss what happens when you mix alcohol with emergency allergy medications with me – especially when I bring it up before it happens accidentally. Alcohol is common in our society, and an expected part of many social interactions after a certain age. If you have a quick chat with your doctor before you get into a situation involving more than a sip of wine, then you’ll be prepared and ready (on the allergy front anyway) when you’re offered your first drink.

Cocktail shakers can be used for multiple drinks. Watch out for cross-contamination.

Finally, if you plan to go out with friends and you’re not the designated driver, I advise finding a simple, commonly-available alcoholic drink that you are comfortable ordering in a mixed setting before you go out. This way you always have a safe fallback that most bars will carry and you don’t have to feel put upon when the order comes around to you and you start listing allergies. Tee-totallers do this too – they order plain Coke (looks like they’re drinking rum-and-coke) or 7-up (looks like 7-and-7). Rum and Coke, vodka with a twist of lemon, scotch, etc. Feel free to tell your bartender to mix whatever you want. You know he has Sprite or 7-Up or some kind of safe fruit juice and your favorite liqueur? So what if it’s 7-Up and bourbon? Tell him what you want, he’ll probably do it – you’re usually only paying for the liquor and his time anyway.

Final Notes

You know this already: communicate with your server and the bartender when possible. In my experience these people are even more attentive and able to accommodate requests than restaurant servers and chefs. Perhaps there is less pressure in some of the settings I’ve been in, or perhaps there is some reality in the stereotype that bartenders are there to listen, but whatever it is, I’m glad for it.

I’ll keep adding to this as I learn more and as you leave your experiences in the comments.

23 Responses  
  • Al writes:
    September 11th, 20107:20 pmat

    I am very allergic to the cherry flavoring in cough syrups. Last night, I had a drink of cherry-flavored vodka. (only one shot, and with plenty of water after….) In the morning, I felt like I had a hangover, but without the headache, just the general achy-ness and very queasy stomach. I didnt realize I would have that same reaction after just a shot of vodka that I do to cough syrup! This is another specific type of allergy that people should watch out for!

  • Alice writes:
    September 21st, 201010:44 pmat

    Aww, that sucks Al! No more cherry for you! Are plain real cherries fine? Is it just the flavor?

  • miami-allergy writes:
    December 27th, 201011:07 pmat

    If you have some symptoms showing though, you have to find the best start to finding a sensible and safe solution.

  • Alcohol and Food Allergies writes:
    October 15th, 201111:28 amat

    […] you to guest blogger, Alice from Safe and Yummy. This is a repost from her blog and may be useful to food allergic adults – especially as the coming season invites social […]

  • Immigration To Australia writes:
    January 30th, 20129:49 pmat

    What terrible allergies to have that would prevent you from enjoying these drinks! How unfortunate!

  • nut/peanut allergies writes:
    June 4th, 20126:30 pmat

    I have severe peanut and nut allergies and was wondering what beers are safe to drink like is corona safe and molson?

  • Alice writes:
    June 5th, 201211:10 amat

    Well, we haven’t had a problem with most beers. I would carefully test any beers you’re interested in, but stay away from any of the spiced/mulled holiday brews like Pumpkin Ale or Christmas-spiced beers. Spices are more questionable and sometimes almond extract is counted as a spice.

    I haven’t ever tried Corona or Molson. Bud Light doesn’t pose a problem for me. I tend to try Belgian Ales and other beers that aren’t very hoppy: Duchesse de Bourgogne, Framboise. My husband likes 1554 and Abbey by New Belgium. We tend to be pretty adventurous when trying beers (as long as they aren’t flavored) because brewers rarely seem to use nuts or peanuts.

    Remember, I’m not a doctor or a distributor, so you need to be careful anytime you’re trying new things and not just trust me.

  • Severe Allergies writes:
    April 14th, 20133:26 pmat

    I have severe allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, soy, some oils (such as canola, vegetable, rape seed), seeds, and some citrus. All I have tried so far are some red wines and champagne. I’m afraid to try anything else. Do you have any suggestions?

  • Alice writes:
    May 17th, 20132:02 pmat

    What are you interested in?
    I’ve found white wine less problematic for me.
    Beers are complicated what with the ingredients and the hops and the malts and all that. Hops can be irritating in a number of ways so try something without hops first.
    Vodkas are generally a pretty “clean” spirit, get one that announces what it is made of because it can be a variety of things, including potatoes or wheat. Since vodkas aren’t aged you won’t have to worry about cross-contamination of the cask it was aged in. Always drink responsibly and with people you trust, alcohol can make you less careful about your food allergies. You can mix vodka with pretty much anything you already drink to make a mixed drink.
    Some people react to alcohol itself. If you’ve already had red wine and champagne you’re probably okay, but drinking a lot might bring that out.

    I’m not a doctor or anything, I’m just giving the above from my own experience.

  • Jackson writes:
    October 31st, 201311:21 amat

    I have a severe allergy to nuts, peanuts, tree nuts
    And I was wondering if there was any alcohol drinks that is nut peanut free

    Also even if it says (May contain nuts, tree nuts, peanuts) I’m still allergic
    So please if any one could find me a list of nut free peanut free and tree nut free alcohol drink thanks

  • Alice writes:
    November 1st, 201312:20 amat

    Ingredients are not required to be labeled on alcoholic products in the US at this time. The post that you’re replying to is pretty much the best I can do– but it is based on my experience and my husband’s. We both are very allergic to nuts and peanuts, and cannot tolerate foods labeled as “may contain” or that are cross-contaminated.

    Stay away from Amaretto, Frangelico, and almost all gins for sure.

    Please read my warning at the end about how alcohol impairs judgment, and with a severe allergy this can put you in a dangerous situation. Drink responsibly.

  • Ritney writes:
    January 6th, 20148:06 pmat

    I have oral allergy syndrome and do not tolerate nightshades or gluten grains. I’ve noticed that I’m getting itchy bumps that turn into pimples around my mouth after drinking wine. This happens after I eat fruit. Do you suggest maybe switching to plain vodka and soda?

  • Aaron writes:
    March 2nd, 20149:51 pmat

    Just for anyone who might be interested, Disaronno is an Amaretto liquor that does not contain nuts. I have a severe peanut/tree nut allergy and I have had plenty of this delicious drink with no problem. Disaronno is made with apricots instead of almonds or other nuts.

  • Chad writes:
    March 4th, 201411:42 amat

    Does anyone know if grey goose or ciroc contain nuts? Ive heard that Grey Goose uses almond paste, but I’m not positive

  • Alice writes:
    September 25th, 20141:40 amat

    Well, ANECDOTALLY, Grey Goose has been fine for us and we’ve always had major problems ingesting almond paste, even just cross-contamination has meant our lives were in danger. Bombay Sapphire DOES have almond.

  • Alice writes:
    September 25th, 20141:46 amat

    Well, if you notice a problem drinking or eating something, definitely switch to something else.

    I’d carefully research and test out a few alcohols that you think do not contain your allergens and then switch to those. Vodkas can be very plain, but that plain-ness can be made from wheat (like Dry Fly, one of my personal favorite). Honestly, I’d test one that is made locally where you can go and chat with the makers and get the full ingredients list. Since vodkas can be made with potatoes and such, it might work better with the oral allergy syndrome than something made with fruits. You’d want a traditional vodka, made with potatoes.

    I’m not a doctor or a medical professional. Just telling you how I live my life. Any risks you decide to take are yours.

  • Frank writes:
    December 22nd, 20141:06 amat

    Does Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey contain peanuts?

  • Alice writes:
    April 27th, 201510:49 pmat

    I have no idea.

  • Jade writes:
    June 11th, 20151:54 pmat

    Are you saying to stay away from Mikes Hard Lemonades? I have a severe peanut allergies and have had them before but im getting nervous now

  • Melissa writes:
    July 5th, 20154:32 pmat

    A few years ago, I had a chocolate covered pretzel shot which has whipped vodka and Frangelico. I immediately got sick after taking this shot. Just last evening, I had the same shot. Was feeling fine until I drank it. Have I developed an allergy to either the vodka or the Frangelico? I do not have any allergies so this is all new to me. Hoping someone can answer my question.

  • Alice writes:
    October 22nd, 20159:52 pmat

    Mike’s is fine for me, with my peanut allergy. Obviously I’m not a doctor and can’t diagnose for you, but it’s a data point for you anyway.

  • Alice writes:
    October 22nd, 20159:53 pmat

    You’re going to have to go to a doctor for an answer to that.

  • Anoir writes:
    November 10th, 201510:30 pmat

    I have not visited your blog for a bit but have it bmkroaoked because of the combo of crafty things & the egg allergy we have in common. Congrats! My son had a negative blood test a week or so ago so we have skin tests & a food challenge in a week or so. French toast will taste so good! It is so strange to thing out of the parameters of the past.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa