Celiac Disease is a pain in the gut. If you’re one of the millions of people around the world who suffer from the condition make sure it doesn’t derail your martinis.
The disease, also spelt coeliac in some countries (such as the UK) is an autoimmune condition where the sufferer becomes intolerant to gluten.
Unfortunately gluten can be found in many things, not just classic wheat, rye and barley products like bread, cake and pasta, but also in a variety of processed foods or even things made in the same location as other items containing gluten.
In terms of martinis, this can pose a problem to a degree, but mostly because of some of the items traditionally consumed alongside a martini rather than in the martini itself.
Basically, distillation is your friend, so a classic martini made with distilled ingredients and non-gluten botanicals is safe, but keep an eye out for any ingredients that might have been added to the spirit after the distillation process.
If a gin is classified as London Dry, you can consider it gluten free.
London Dry is not a regional designation, but rather a style of gin production. In EU law a gin can only be classified as London Dry if it has been distilled and nothing has been added after the distillation process except water.
The following gin brands are London Dry:
There are a number of additional gins which are not classified as London Dry but they either follow a similar distillation process or explicitly state that they are gluten free:
Roku Gin: while not a typical London Dry gin, it follows the London Dry distillation process and can therefore be classified as gluten free.
Plymouth Gin: this is also not a London Dry gin. Indeed, Plymouth gin is its own, recognised and specific preparation process. Nonetheless, this distinct style of gin follows a similar principle that no further items are added to the drink after distillation except for beautiful Dartmoor water. It is therefore also gluten free.
Hendrick’s Gin is a contemporary, botanical gin and not a London Dry. Botanicals are specifically added to the gin after the distillation process has taken place, and indeed this is one of the most distinctive features of the gin. Nonetheless, the company website explicitly states that the product is gluten free.
Vermouth is the other main constituent ingredient in a martini and crucially, it has not been distilled. Instead it is aromatised and fortified.
The vast majority of vermouths are grape based so will not contain gluten per se, but traces of gluten can exist in some of the botanicals. This is thought to be rare but it might be worth considering if you are especially sensitive.
I spoke to the venerable French producers of Noilly Prat who confirmed that their vermouth is gluten free.
I also spoke to the ubiquitous, reliable Italian vermouth producers Martini who confirmed that their vermouth is gluten free.
I also spoke to the Alpine French producers of Dolin who very conscientiously responded by writing me A LETTER stating that their vermouth is gluten free, but that their “plant suppliers cannot guarantee the total absence of potentially allergenic substances because their plant-based products may be contaminated with wild allergens.”
I suspect that this is likely the case for many vermouths so while they should be considered almost entirely gluten free, there might be some very trace contaminations on some very rare occasions, which could affect people with particularly acute sensitivities.
I am also very grateful for the care, detail and honesty of the Dolin response!
The next thing to consider is your chosen martini garnish. If you are going to use fresh lemon then you are good to go.
However, take care with other garnishes. If you are serving your martini with olives they are usually gluten free, but take care if they are stuffed with any ingredients that might contain traces of gluten.
Some olives or their stuffing might also be pickled in malted vinegar, which, unlike other vinegars is wheat based and not distilled. This is a no-no.
Indeed for any martinis that involve a pickled or vinegar-based garnish take care to check that the vinegar is not malted. This could include Gibson martinis, filthy martinis or martinis garnished with pickled cucumber.
If you like your martinis with a splash of fire, rejoice that Tabasco sauce is gluten free, so you can enjoy spicy martinis and hot ‘n’ dirty martinis.
Despite being made from grain, most whiskies are actually gluten free because of the distillation process. However, some can contain slight traces of gluten due to the barrels that they have been aged in. Some whiskies may also have additional products added to them after the distillation process which could include gluten. If you are particularly sensitive to gluten you might have to be careful.
As ever, it’s always worth checking but if you are going to enjoy a smokey martini or a Paisley martini be sure to use a reputable brand. If you are especially sensitive, look for a brand that has marked itself as gluten free.
The ubiquitous espresso martini is made with coffee, vodka and Kahlua. Coffee and vodka are naturally gluten free but Kahlua is reported to potentially have some traces of gluten, even though its constituent ingredients are gluten free. These might be best avoided by those with particular sensitivity.
For those who enjoy a sweeter martini, the Gypsy martini is largely considered to be gluten free but you should check the maraschino cherries you use because some of them can contain trace gluten elements from the way they are preserved.
Lychee martinis are considered gluten free, with vodka and lychee liqueur both safe. The tinned lychees are usually gluten free but it’s always worth checking.
A Churchill martini made with vodka or a London dry gin with a lemon twist garnish would be the absolute safest version.
In terms of snacks, nibbles and appetisers, there are loads of gluten-free options available. It’s always worth checking the ingredients or asking the bar staff but here are some items which are usually considered to be gluten free:
The Gluten Free Bar website also provides a really handy guide to a multitude of ingredients to help you make the right decisions about your drinks. They also have a range of shops across North America.
If you represent a product brand that is certifiably gluten free and not listed above, please get in touch so I can add you.
Otherwise, rejoice and enjoy your gluten-free martinis!
One thought on “Martinis for Celiac Disease”
Very informative and good to know. 👍