Ah yes- the elusive question that literally no one ever seems to have answers to because 99% of allergy-related-content out there on the world wide web is aimed at 5 year olds and/or the parents of 5 year olds.
Back when I was first starting to drink, I relied on a typed out blog post someone had made of most common alcohol brands and if they contained nuts or not (the post has long-since been taken down). I’m hoping this post might help someone else out and alleviate the fears of someone who is trying to newly navigate the scene.
The standard disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or an allergist, or an expert on this of any kind. Just a gal with allergies who tries not to let her day be ruined.
The 3 Keys to Success
- Know your limits
On almost every allergy site you see that does discuss drinking, there’s some warning about “alcohol lowers your inhibitions so you won’t be prepared and ready if disaster strikes!!!”. This is true, but it’s also fear mongering. Alcohol DOES do things like lower response times and impact your decision making skills (re: why you shouldn’t drive drunk) but in most cases, your intake is something that you can control. Know your limit, don’t put your drink down/leave it with anyone, and only drink something that you’ve poured/a bartender poured.
2. Have your supplies
If you’re a person with food allergies, you probably bring your emergency meds along when you go to a restaurant. Bring them along if you’re drinking too.
If you really don’t want to be that friend holding a bag when no one else is, look into outfits with pockets that are large enough to hold your autoinjector (I do love my auvi-Q for this reason exactly). I used to buy the antihistamines that are pop-out tablets so that I could slip a few into my pockets, instead of having to carry around a bottle.
3. Have a buddy
This one isn’t just for food allergic people: you should have a buddy if you’re going out to drink. Make sure your buddy knows where your emergency supplies are & what to do if you need them. Don’t lose your buddy. If you and your buddy must part ways at some point in the day/night, find a new buddy (if you’re able to do so).
Drinking at “Home”
Drinking in a home setting (as opposed to a bar) offers you a level of control that you might not have elsewhere. Oftentimes, it’s acceptable to BYOB, and you’re almost always pouring your own beverage.
Some things to be cautious of:
- Confusing cups
At a house party, nearly everyone is going to be drinking out of a cup that probably looks the same. Find a way to mark that your cup is yours, and don’t set it down. If you do end up setting it down, just get a new cup.
2. Jungle Juice/Large Communal Drinks
Unless you personally helped make it, and it’s in a container that you know is clean (and the serving utensil for it won’t be getting dirty), just skip it
3. Drinking Games
House parties always seem to come with a drinking game or two. Having allergies often leads to an internal struggle about social standing vs. safety. A lot of internal questions may sound like: when do I get to have fun and be normal? Are allergies going to stand in my way? How do I not get to be known as “that allergy guy”?
I can assure you that it’s a bit less complicated than you’re probably making out the scenario to be in your head.
Some things to look out for include: alcohol that you’re allergic to being used (frangelico if you’re allergic to tree nuts, beer if you’re allergic to wheat, etc. etc. etc.), sharing of cups, dirty ping pong balls, splashy games, dirty tables.
If you’re part of the game-choosing, suggest a game that doesn’t require communal cups/communal drinking. Some ideas include Cheers to the Governor, Pizza Box, Ride the Bus, High or Low, or googling “drinking game rules” to whatever tv show or movie is on deck.
If there is a game that is riskier that you want to play (like Beer Pong, Beer Die, Flip Cup, or Stack Cup), your best bet (especially if you’re allergic to wheat, since these games are typically played with beer and get splash-y) is to just play with water! Get brand new cups, a new ping pong ball if required, and do any drinking from your own drink in your hand. If you want it to still be alcoholic, ask the table to play with an alternative that is safe for you (white claw, cider, wine) and make sure you grab new cups. Beware that previously played-on tables will probably have mystery liquid spilled all over them, so be cautious- especially if you’re sensitive to wheat as a contact allergen (with that in mind, if a ping pong ball is going to be floating in a cup of liquid you’re drinking, it’ll probably also be bouncing on a table. Play those games w/ water if that’s a concern).
Back when I was just avoiding nuts and shellfish, so I’d just ask someone else who was playing the game (typically someone on my team, or a friend that was with me) to drink for me. I can almost guarantee you that you can and will find someone willing to do so.
Drinking at a Bar
Ah, bars. The world is opening back up and bars are too (or, if you’re in Southern Florida like I am, they were never closed).
Shakers tend to be used for multiple types of alcohol and in-between sanitization ranges greatly. Maraschino cherries are sometimes (not always?) flavored with almond. Peanut butter and jelly beers can be found on tap at a lot of breweries.
More importantly, bars tend to be crowded and loud. Explaining your allergy/allergen protocol is not always an option at a crowded bar with music blasting in the background. So if you have problems with cross contamination you’re going to want to be cautious, and it’s probably a good idea to leave the mixed drinks for at-home. If you can, plan ahead and know what bottled or canned options are safe for you, or choose drinks that don’t require a shaker.
Some bartenders are awesome and will know if they have a safe brand of gin, others won’t even know that Bombay Sapphire has almond in it. Better to be safe than sorry and know what you want before you get up to the bar.
Bar countertops tend to be sticky, but (for the most part) there really are not as many open bowls of peanuts lying around as you might think from TV shows. Use caution with the sticky surfaces (as you would anywhere in life) and don’t drink anything that you didn’t see getting poured.
How to Choose your Alcohol
Most alcohol is not currently labeled for allergens. Which is super frustrating. Crowdsourcing this information is also tough (as we all know, things change constantly).
As of July 22, 2021 here’s what I know. Like said above, always check for newer information, this changes all the time.
Most beers contain wheat. There are *some* GF beers out there now, but definitely triple check before you drink. Some beers contain nuts, if they are craft “peanut butter” brews.
Some nut-allergy safe canned/bottled brands include: Corona, Budweiser, Natural Light, Lagunitas, and Sierra Nevada.
Most wine is safe for nut allergies, but wine is sometimes fined with egg whites, casein (dairy), or isinglass (fish) making it problematic for fish/egg/dairy allergies. Refer to Barnivore before proceeding.
My favorite vegan and nut allergy safe champagne is currently G.H. Mumm, and I also love the Syltbar prosecco.
My favorite nut free, GF, vegan cider is Golden State Cider. Angry Orchard is also GF and nut-allergy safe. They use honey as a sweetener in some of their products (which make them not entirely vegan), but those are all listed out on Barnivore if that’s a concern.
I haven’t had any seltzer alcohols since my new diagnosis, but Whiteclaw states on their main page that they are Gluten Free, and I didn’t have problems with my nut allergy with them back in 2019.
So far, every brand of tequila I’ve run into is safe for all of my allergies. Their primary ingredient is agave. My favorites include Patron, Don Julio, and El Jimador.
Gins are made of juniper, but a lot of them use botanicals to give give brands a distinct and special flavor. A lot a lot a lot of gins have almond as a botanical (notably the common ones like Bombay Sapphire and Beefeater. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the almond containing gins. I tend to just avoid em.
With my current nightshade avoidance & the new wheat allergy, I’m off of most vodka. Tito’s is, however, made from corn. Smirnoff is also corn, according to a third party website (so I don’t want to say that is confirmed). Grey Goose, Absolut, and Svedka are made from wheat. With just a nut allergy, all were fine. BE CAUTIOUS- sometimes brands release flavored vodkas that aren’t nut-allergy safe (so just double check).
Back when I was just worrying about nuts, Bacardi was always fine for me! I would also drink Malibu with no problem- be warned, Malibu is coconut flavored so if you can’t do coconut, pass on it.
I used to love Jack Daniels and it was fine for my nut allergy. It’s made of corn, rye, and barley according to their website, so pass if you are gluten free.
Maraschino cherries are sometimes (not always?) flavored with almond
Some fancy mixed drinks contain egg whites.
Coffee liqueur may have dairy or nuts or both.
Bitters are sometimes made in-house and won’t have disclosed ingredient information, and even bottled bitters will vaguely list “spices”. If you have spice issues (like me), better to be safe than sorry.
Drinks are sometimes garnished with fruit, citrus peels, or herbs (mojitos with mint, etc).