As more and more people are adopting a gluten free way of eating either as the result of a medical diagnosis, or a lifestyle choice restaurants are scrambling to adapt their menus to accommodate them. And that is a good thing. This blog is designed to give restaurant owners and chefs some helpful and practical ways to do that.
While it is primarily designed for establishments like restaurants,most of the information can be helpful for schools, hospitals, day cares or other places that feed a large number of people. Except for this post! Because in this post we are going to look at gluten free from the adult beverage view point.
There used to be a big controversy about whether or not hard liquor was gluten free due to the nature of the grains used, but this is no longer the case. Distilled alcohol is safe for your gluten free customer. As is wine. But, alas, regular beer is not. Think of all the Super Bowl parties and backyard barbecues that the newly diagnosed gluten intolerant stayed home from on that fact alone, and try not to roll your eyes when someone asks for a gluten free beer.
Because, while we know we can always have a glass of wine, sometimes we just want a beer. And while we know that we will never get to sample all the great microbrews out there, we are really trying to be a good sport about it and willing to settle for a faux beer. That is, if you stock it.
Awhile back a few of us did a non-scientific taste test of every gluten free beer I could get my hands on. Some of them are foreign and not readily available, and most are a little pricey. And the consensus seemed to be for Redbridge, which is an Anheuser Busch product which should make it easy to obtain and stock.
Another company that makes a traditional beer using a proprietary process that they declare removes the gluten is the Omission line of beers. I have had these a few times and never gotten sick, but definitely let your customer peruse the label and decide for themselves.
So we’ve established that wine and hard alcohol is safe and beer is not, but what else should a bartender and wait staff know to keep a gluten free customer safe?
Wine coolers and liqueurs may not be safe. These could have added gluten from sources like barley malt for flavor or color, so do not use a liqueur in any drink without disclosing it on your menu description.
Also, if you do something fancy like rim a cocktail glass with a graham cracker/sugar concoction, please list that on your menu. Your customer cannot know to avoid ordering something when there is no mention of it.
One additional thought is to be aware that beer foaming up and sloshing against otherwise clean glasses is enough to cause problems for your gluten free customer.
So let’s recap:
Hard alcohol, wine, gluten free beer, Angry Orchard hard cider, some liqueurs, some flavored hard alcohols.
All regular beer, some liqueurs, some flavorings, some wine cooler or hard lemonades, some flavored hard alcohols. The most popular Bloody Mary mix. Any garnishes that contain flour/cookies etc. (for garnishes stick to a piece of fruit or vegetable.)