The Real Reason Even Wheat-Based Vodkas Are Gluten-Free

Gluten has been in the hot seat for quite some time now. Thinking back to the beginning of the low-carb craze spanning back decades ago, gluten and carbs go hand-in-hand. Avoiding one usually means avoiding the other. Beer, wine, and cocktail drinkers alike who wanted to go low-carb handed in their chosen favorite libations and started opting for zero carb vodka martinis. Fast forward to today, and not only is low-carb still going strong, it's here to stay and so is gluten-free.

But, over those passing decades, gluten started gaining traction as something to avoid for more reasons than just carb content. Many people discovered they have sensitivities to it, and more and more people are developing celiac disease — which is an immune reaction to gluten and can lead to severe complications, per Mayo Clinic.

Those counting carbs know vodka beverages fit their diet, but those who are avoiding gluten for health issues have most likely been shunning the wheat-based brands and sticking to vodkas derived from potatoes, corn, or rice (via Live Science). However, it turns out that even wheat-based ones are gluten-free. How can this be?

It's about what's done to the wheat

In order to turn wheat into alcohol, it must undergo a process called distillation, which is what makes vodka and other spirits different from beer and wine. To make vodka, the wheat is first fermented in a mix with water and yeast, called "vodka mash". Ethanol is produced during fermentation and is then strained from the mashed-up wheat and yeast mixture. The next step is distillation, which is when the ethanol is heated to produce a vapor, and then condensed back into a liquid. This process removes impurities and increases alcohol content. Once distilled, water is added to reach the desired alcohol content that makes vodka, vodka (via Master Class).

According to the National Celiac Association, this resulting distilled alcohol is gluten-free. When alcohol undergoes this process, the proteins from the wheat are removed. And what is gluten? A protein (via Johns Hopkins). So there you have it. Even wheat-based vodkas are considered gluten-free. However, it's always best to heed your body's signals, so if you are sensitive to gluten and wheat-based vodka isn't sitting right with you, stick to the corn and potatoes varieties.