Ginger beer is a popular cocktail mixer, but with the word "beer" in the product name, it's pretty unclear whether this typically non-alcoholic beverage is gluten-free or not. Having celiac disease, my gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats, as well as their derivatives) radar is always on. Upon being offered this beverage, I was unsettled by its name, immediately questioning is ginger beer gluten-free and, therefore, is it safe for me to consume? After a further investigation, I've come to determine what's actually in ginger beer and how to best drink it.  

What's In Ginger Beer?

Nowadays, most brands of ginger beer are simply a ginger-flavored soft drink. As Sprite is a lemon-lime flavored soda, ginger beer is similar in the sense that it is a carbonated, ginger-based sweetened beverage. While each brand has its own methods of preparation and list of ingredients, generally, ginger beer is essentially sparkling water, sugar, and either fresh ginger or ginger flavoring. Because of the prominent ginger flavor, ginger beer tends to be a bit spicier than your average ginger ale while still providing the sweetness and carbonation you know and love.

Is it Gluten-Free?

Despite having the term beer in its name, the simplicity of ginger beer's ingredients does mean that it is naturally gluten-free beverage. If you're still confused by this naming situation, think of ginger beer as a close acquaintance to root beer, the soda base of the root beer float that was an essential component of your childhood. Even though most ginger beers are gluten-free, the celiac and nutrition major in me recommends that those who are gluten sensitive should err on the side of caution and always read the ingredients and allergen statements before consumption to ensure that each brand is, in fact, 100% gluten-free. 

How to Use Ginger Beer

Minus a few select brands, ginger beer typically is non-alcoholic, which is great if you want to hold on to a beer-looking bottle at a party to avoid constantly getting asked if you want a drink. While ginger beer can exist as a delicious, refreshing non-alcoholic beverage on its own, in my opinion, ginger beer tends to shine in Moscow mule form.

Although ginger beer's most common use is as a mixture for the renown cocktail (or mocktail) known as the glorious Moscow mule, it can also be used to spice up a margarita, to sub for club soda in a Paloma, or to top off a ginger mint juleps. Technically, if you're really into ginger flavor, you can sub ginger beer for club soda or Champagne in any mixed drink recipe to create a more interesting depth of flavor.

#SpoonTip: If you sub ginger beer for club soda and a given recipe calls for sugar or a simple syrup, you likely won't need to add as much sweetener as the recipe calls for (or even any at all).

Celiacs and gluten-sensitive individuals around the world will be thrilled to know that ginger beer is absolutely free of gluten, leaving you no longer wondering, is ginger beer gluten-free? And for that, I raise an ice cold ginger beer (or Moscow mule) to your lukewarm can of Natty Light.