Caroline Shannon-Karasik’s AfterGlo

Sipping on a special diet

By: Caroline Shannon-Karasik’s

The holiday season is a time for visiting with friends and family, getting cozy by the fire and, well, there’s a lot of eating and drinking mixed in there, too, right? For those of us who are looking to keep our health and waistlines in check, the abundance of party food and drinks means it’s important for all of us to keep tabs on what’s on our plates. Sure, it’s OK to indulge every now and then – no one’s asking you to skip out on your favorite dish. But keeping a clear head helps us make better decisions that will pay off in the long run – i.e. Do I really need that third piece of pie?

But “conscious consuming,” as I like to call it, takes on a different shape for people who are maintaining a special diet, such as gluten-free or vegan. One of the trickiest spots: Finding an alcoholic beverage that is safe to consume. Some vodka has wheat or barley, while others are made with grapes or potatoes. Most wine is gluten-free, but there are, of course, a few exceptions – some dessert wines, for example. Some alcoholic drinks, such as beer and wine and cider, are clarified using animal-derived substances, meaning they are unsuitable for someone who is on a vegan diet.

Are you ready for a quick briefing on the options that are available to you? In my e-book, “Gluten-Free for the Holidays,” I get detailed on the various options that are available to those who eat gluten-free. This list includes those details, in addition to information for those who are on a vegan diet. Check out the top five most popular alcoholic beverages and the details on what’s safe for you!


Beer and hard cider 

Not too long ago, there weren’t many gluten-free beer options available. These days, we have some rather tasty ones to try that do not include common gluten-containing grains like wheat and barley. Favorite gluten-free beers and cider include Green’s Belgian Ales (Quest Tripel Ale, Endeavour Dubbel Ale and Discovery Amber Ale), New Planet (pale, amber, raspberry and blonde ales) and Angry Orchard Hard Cider (Crisp Apple, Traditional Dry, Apple Ginger and Elderflower). As for vegans, some beers are clarified using a product called isinglass, which comes from fish. Others can be filtered with bone char. On the other hand, some hard ciders are refined using gelatin. Check out for a well-rounded list of beverages that are safe for vegans to drink.



Wine is a naturally gluten-free alcoholic beverage, but there are some instances where cross-contamination becomes an issue in the winemaking process. Some wineries use a flour paste to seal their barrels, while others use gluten-containing grains to clarify their wines. That being said, both of these practices are rare and more common in European countries than in the United States. Almost all wine is considered gluten-free by the Food and Drug Administration (less than 20 parts per million of gluten). In my opinion, wine is one of those alcoholic beverages that requires the consumer to pay attention to any adverse reactions and ask questions, such as: Were oak barrels used to age the wine? Was a gluten-containing protein used to clarify the wine? Am I having a reaction to sulfites?

Sometimes the icky feelings we get from consuming wine can be related to an intolerance to sulfites. Sulfites are naturally occurring in wine and more are often added.

As for those on a vegan diet, animal derived ingredients are sometimes used in the processing of wine. Check out for a list of wines that are safe for vegans to consume.


Sparkling wine or Champagne 

The same rules we applied to wine are used here – sparkling wine and Champagne are naturally gluten-free, but you might run into some cross-contamination issues during the aging process. If you aren’t sure, call your favorite producer and find out. There are several popular gluten-free varieties, depending on your budget. Suggestions include: Domaine Carneros Brut Carneros, Moët & Chandon Imperial and Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label. Trying to keep things vegan? Use the same list for suggestions on safe Champagne options.



Stay away from vodkas made from gluten-containing grains, like wheat, barley or rye. Choose those made with corn, grape or potato instead, such as Ciroc Ultra Premium Plain Vodka (grape-based vodka), Smirnoff Plain Vodka (corn-based) or Chopin Potato Vodka. As for vegan options, some vodka is filtered with animal-derived ingredients (such as bone char), while other flavored vodkas include animal ingredients, like dairy. Be sure to do your research. Acceptable brands include, Absolut Vodka, Grey Goose Vodka and Skinnygirl Bare Naked Vodka.


Now that we have our list, who’s ready for a drink? Cheers!


Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the upcoming author of a gluten-free healthy lifestyle book, set to be released in January 2014. She is the author of the popular gluten-free blog, and is currently training to become a certified health coach. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at


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