There are plenty of drinking myths out there, from the numerous falsehoods surrounding the Moscow Mule mug to whether or not a “hair of the dog” actually helps cure a hangover. But there are two very important spirit myths that rear their heads all the time and don’t get nearly as much attention—and we want to bust them once and for all. Whether you’re caught up on which spirits are gluten-free or if you refuse to drink whiskey because of its “sugar content,” you can now rest easy knowing the truth about these two common (and annoying) alcohol myths.
Myth: Only Some Distilled Spirits Are Gluten-Free
Certain vodkas and other spirits are marketed as gluten-free because they aren’t distilled from any type of wheat. In reality, it doesn’t matter if vodka is distilled from potatoes or grains—in the end, it’s all gluten-free. It’s understandable why this is confusing to consumers, especially when it comes to labeling laws. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) requires a third-party test for a company to advertise their product as gluten-free. But even so, if a spirit is made with any type of product containing gluten, it can’t be advertised as gluten-free on the label—even if it is. Weird loopholes and laws aside, it’s still an absolute fact that all distilled spirits in their natural state without any additives are gluten-free.
Now for the science: During the distillation process, alcohol is separated from everything else in the mash. This alcoholic vapor travels through the still and condenses into liquid alcohol without any traces of gluten or sugar (more on that in a minute). So if anyone says that rye whiskey or wheat-based vodka makes him or her feel sick, it’s most likely linked to additives like colorings and flavorings, rather than the wheat. Distilled spirits are, after all, alcohol, which we know (and bitterly accept) is not healthy. So if you’re not feeling well after imbibing, consider how much you’ve had because we can guarantee it’s not from gluten.
Myth: Some Distilled Spirits Contain More Sugar Than Others
We all have that one friend who only drinks vodka because he or she thinks it’s the spirit with the least sugar. While we mostly nod in silence to avoid giving yet another lecture, this is absolutely false. During distillation, yeast eats the sugars present in the mash, which creates alcohol as a byproduct. Lower ABV beverages like wine and beer still contain some sugar, but a full-proof spirit—like vodka, gin, tequila, whiskey or rum—is completely sugar-and- carbohydrate-free.
What you do need to watch out for are companies that add sugar after the distillation process is complete. Some tequilas and rums are dosed with extra sweetness to achieve the flavor profile that the distillers desire. The best way to know which spirits are sugar-free and bottled without additives other than water is to do some research and ask questions, be it from a customer service representative or a knowledgeable salesperson at your local liquor store. It’s also good to know that your body burns alcohol before anything else. So when you have a drink, even if it’s a neat spirit, your body stops burning stored fat until the alcohol is completely metabolized. So if you’re blaming “sugary” rum or bourbon for breaking your diet, it actually isn’t the sugar at all—it’s simply the alcohol.