Paleo Alcohol Guide

Is Alcohol Paleo? The age old question for many converts. In short, not really. But in long, kind of. Depends on what type of Paleo practitioner you are. If you want to lose weight or have serious health issues, we would not recommend drinking alcohol, but we do get it. For many of us, Paleo isn’t just a thing we do to get to where we want to be…its a lifestyle. And if you’re a lifestyler too and you don’t want to give up the juice, you may as well make the best choices that you can with your alcohol selection.

Yes, we’ve heard the comments…”Distillation rids the alcohol of any grains or gluten! It shouldn’t matter!” And yes, in theory, distillation should rid the liquors of any gluten, but we’re not talking a blue sky situation, we’re talking reality. Many celiac disease sufferers still note that they have reactions when consuming certain distilled alcohols made from grains, and tests confirm that some distilled spirits still have traces of gluten. The fault, in many cases, is due not to the process of distillation, but the facility practices and the possibility of cross contamination of source grains still present in the facility. There is also the possibility of additional ingredients added after distillation and their relative manufacturing process. Again, I agree with the “no gluten argument” in theory, but in a real world setting, it is not perfect. So, Yea, we’re not sure if the distillation rids the alcohol of grains or gluten, so just to be sure, this Paleo Alcohol Guide will outline the core components of each type of alcohol, so you can make those decisions on your own. We’ve outlined the types to avoid and also, made a couple of selections in each category for the best Paleo solutions most easily found in major retailers. Cheers!

The Lighter Side…

Beer : No & Yes

Traditional beer contains 3 basic ingredients: wheat, barley and hops. Wheat and barley are grains, and hops are actually the female flower clusters of a vine. As you should know by now, grains are out, and thus, so are traditional beers. Sorghum is an interesting little plant – it is a grain, but is gluten free, just like rice. So, better than regular beer, but still not Paleo. For the best selections in this category, try to stick cider beers, but if you are OK with a gluten free alternative, sorghum will do as well.

Sorghum Suggestions: Bard’s and Redbridge

Cider Suggestions: Woodchuck, Angry Orchard

Red Wine : Yes

Red wine is my all time favorite recommendation for those who want to drink, while maintaining a Paleo lifestyle. Why you ask? For so many reasons! Red wine can be found organic, from sustainable farms that promote local economy. Yes for that! Additionally, in moderation, its good for your heart, and has antioxidants like resveratrol. This is the healthiest thing on this list. Go get you some.

Suggestions: Choose 100% organic from sustainable farms

White Wine : Yes

What makes whites different from reds? They are usually made from white grapes, but more importantly, they remove the skin, which changes the color and taste (called tannins) and removes the resveratrol (bummer). White wine is also full of good stuff like antioxidants, but not as much as the red wine.

Suggestions: Choose 100% organic from sustainable farms

Champagne : Yes

A sparkling wine, champagne is made from grapes and sent through a secondary fermentation of the wine in the bottle to create the carbonation, this is done by adding yeast and sugar.

Suggestions: Choose 100% organic from sustainable farms

Sake : No & Yes

What is sake you ask? It is a rice wine that is served often in Japanese sushi houses. One of my sad moments in Paleo can be attributed to the fact that sake is made from rice. And though it is gluten free (be careful, some cheapo brands add barley), it is not made from Paleo ingredients and should be avoided if you want to be strictly Paleo. Not the worst of the worst, but still made from a grain. So if you want a gluten free beverage, this would do it, if you want a Paleo beverage, no dice. Drink very sparingly.

Suggestions: NAMA Sake – Seasonal, unfiltered, unrefined, raw

Now let’s bring on the booze…

Vodka : No & Yes

Vodka is primarily made from distilling grains or potatoes and sometimes fruits and/or sugar. Again, we’re not sure if the multiple distillation rids this liquor of grains and gluten, but if you have an allergy and you’re not sure, shoot for the stuff made from fruits like grapes or sugarcane.

Suggestions: Ciroc (made from grapes, flavorless), VuQo (coconut)

Cachaça : Yes

Cachaça is often confused with rum, but unlike its not-so-identical twin, Brazilian law requires that the liquor can only be made from the distillation of fermented sugarcane juice. No byproduct molasses or additives of any kind, making it the optimal choice when available.

Suggestion: Leblon

Rum : No & Yes

Here’s the skinny. Rum can be made from the distillation of fermented sugarcane juice or sugarcane byproducts like molasses. If given the choice, you’ll want to stick to the sugarcane juice version. And don’t worry about the color, dark rum is dark because it is distilled in charred oak barrels, while white in steel drums, not because of ingredients.

Suggestions: 10 Cane Rum

Whiskey : No

Whiskey is made from the distillation of fermented grain mash. This can include barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat and corn. If that doesn’t scream STOP!!!, I don’t know what does! You may as well go to a bakery, buy one of every type of bread, put it in a blender with water and drink it…well, not really, but it sounds funny doesn’t it?? Haha, but again, we’re not sure if the multiple distillation rids this liquor of grains and gluten, but if you have an allergy and you’re not sure, avoid this beverage.

Suggestions: None, you should avoid this beverage

Bourbon : No

Bourbon is a whiskey that is made primarily of distilled corn, but also wheat, rye and malted barley. Didn’t I say no to whiskey? I did, so don’t drink it if you’ve got an allergy!

Suggestions: None, you should avoid this beverage

Scotch : No

Didn’t you see what I wrote about whiskey? Oh, you didn’t know scotch was a whiskey? Well, now you do, so you can’t use that excuse anymore. It was originally made from malt barley (grain), but now is made with wheat and rye as well. Single malt or blended doesn’t matter, this drink is made from grains, so if you have an allergy and are unsure, avoid this drink.

Suggestions: None, you should avoid this beverage

Gin : No

This one makes Angel really really sad because he loves Nolet gin, but gin is made from the distillation of grain mash including barley, corn and wheat, very similar to whiskey. The difference is that gin is usually infused with juniper berries and a variety of floral or fruit extracts. No matter the variety, this one is out if you’re scared of allergic reactions or sensitivities. Sorry baby!

Suggestions: None, you should avoid this beverage

Tequila : Yes

Tequila is made from the agave plant. And I know what you’re going to say… “But agave is processed!!!” and just to give you affirmation, yes it is, as is everything on this list. Though as far as alcohols go, this one is a keeper. Stick to 100% agave. If you stray, you’ll be consuming 51% plant and the rest is allll sugar. What’s the difference between silver and gold you ask? Same as rum – gold is aged in oak barrels.

Suggestion: Easy. Patrón.

Brandy : Yes

Is made by distilling wine. It is made predominantly from grapes, but can be from other fruits as well. There are many different varieties – watch out for the cheapo brands, they sometimes add caramel color to their product and you don’t want that!

Suggestions: Catoctin Creek Organic 1757 Virginia Brandy

Cognac: Yes

Cognac is a variety of brandy. To be considered a cognac, it must meet requirements like what type of grape (ugni blanc), must be twice distilled in copper pots and aged at least 2 years in French oak barrels. The grapes are combined with yeasts and left to ferment.

Suggestions: We don’t drink cognac at all, but have heard that Bio Attitude is very good.

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