Is mule Moscow Mule gluten-free?

Moscow Mule is a popular cocktail made with vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice. It’s often served in a copper mug, which is part of its signature look. But is this refreshing cocktail safe for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity? Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients.


Vodka is considered gluten-free. Most vodkas are distilled from potatoes, grapes, or grains like wheat or rye. Distillation removes the gluten protein from the original grain. As long as the vodka is distilled correctly, the finished product should be free of gluten residues. Major vodka brands like Absolut, Smirnoff, and Tito’s state that their vodkas are gluten-free.

Ginger Beer

Ginger beer is a key ingredient in Moscow Mules. This spicy, sweet soda provides the drink’s signature flavor. There are two main types of ginger beer: alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Alcoholic ginger beer is fermented, while non-alcoholic versions are carbonated beverages.

Alcoholic ginger beer is often made from sugar, ginger, water, lime, and yeast. It may also contain gluten grains like barley or wheat. However, the fermentation process removes gluten proteins. Brands like Crabbie’s and Fever Tree certify their alcoholic ginger beers as gluten-free.

Non-alcoholic ginger beers are usually made with carbonated water, ginger flavoring, sugar, and other natural ingredients. Popular brands like Reed’s, Maine Root, and Bundaberg are considered gluten-free. They do not contain gluten grains or ingredients derived from them. Always check the label to confirm.

Lime Juice

Freshly squeezed lime juice is naturally gluten-free. Store-bought bottled lime juice is also considered gluten-free. Leading brands like RealLime and Santa Cruz Organic don’t contain wheat, barley, rye or other gluten sources. 100% lime juice avoids possible contamination from other ingredients.

Copper Mug

The traditional copper mug used for Moscow Mules poses no threat for gluten exposure. Copper mugs are made from solid copper metal, sometimes with a tin lining. They contain no gluten ingredients. You also don’t have to worry about cross-contact with gluten, since the mugs are thoroughly washed between uses.

Mixers & Garnishes

Sometimes Moscow Mules are served with additional mixers like simple syrup or bitters. Popular simple syrup brands like Liber & Co and Small Hand Foods are gluten-free. Angostura bitters are also considered gluten-free. Grenadine, a pomegranate syrup, may contain added sugars derived from wheat. Check the ingredients list to be safe.

Lastly, garnishes like lime wedges, mint, or cinnamon sticks won’t pose any issues either. Just avoid gluten-containing additions like flavored rims with wheat-based ingredients.

Risk of Cross-Contact

Even if the Moscow Mule ingredients themselves are gluten-free, there’s still a chance of cross-contact at the bar. Shared juicers, blenders, and taps could introduce trace amounts of gluten. Some bartenders rim Moscow Mule mugs with lemon-lime sugar made with wheat flour. Using contaminated ice is another risk factor.

If you’re highly sensitive, take precautions when ordering. Ask about their gluten-free practices and request unflavored vodka and fresh ginger beer. Ask for no rimming of the mug and unshared garnishes. Also consider carrying your own copper mug for drinks.

Distilled Spirits with Gluten Claims

Despite vodka and other distilled spirits being gluten-free by nature, some brands explicitly label their bottles as “gluten-free”. Here are examples of vodkas and whiskies making gluten-free claims:

Brand Product
Tito’s Tito’s Handmade Vodka
New Amsterdam New Amsterdam Vodka
Motepa Motepa Vodka
Hendrick’s Hendrick’s Gin
Woodford Reserve Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon

While labeling as “gluten-free” is technically unnecessary, some brands do this for marketing and to provide extra assurance.

Gluten-Removed Spirits

In contrast to most distilled spirits, there are some vodka and whiskey brands that identify as “gluten-removed”. These include:

Brand Product
Ghost Vodka Ghost Ultra-Premium Vodka
Deep Eddy Deep Eddy Vodka
Bardstown Bourbon Bardstown Fusion Series #1

These spirits start with gluten-containing grains. They then use proprietary processes to reduce the gluten content below 20 ppm, the international standard for gluten-free labeling. People with celiac disease or sensitivity should exercise caution with these.

Ingredients Check

If ever uncertain about an ingredient in a Moscow Mule, don’t hesitate to ask your bartender. Any reputable establishment will have access to complete ingredient lists and preparation information for their cocktails. Do your due diligence before ordering.

Low Gluten and Gluten-Free Beers

In lieu of regular ginger beer, some prefer substituting gluten-free beer in their Moscow Mules. But is beer an option for those avoiding gluten? Let’s explore.

Regular beers brewed from barley malt contain gluten. However, there are specialty beers crafted to minimize or eliminate gluten:

  • Gluten-removed beers – Contain under 20 ppm gluten after processing to extract gluten.
  • Gluten-reduced beers – Specially crafted to reduce gluten content, usually have less than 6 ppm.
  • Sorghum beers – Brewed from sorghum instead of barley malt.
  • Green’s gluten-free beers – Crafted from millet, sorghum, buckwheat, rice, and gluten-free yeast.

Be mindful that beers made from gluten-containing cereals, even when labeled gluten-removed or reduced, can still cause issues for some.

Popular Gluten-Free Beer Options

Here are some well-known gluten-free beer brands to consider using in Moscow Mules:

Brand Beer
Omission Omission Lager
Redbridge Redbridge Sorghum Beer
New Grist New Grist Pilsner
Ghostfish Grapefruit IPA
Green’s Green’s Amber Ale

When prepared properly with gluten-free ingredients, Moscow Mules can be a delicious gluten-free cocktail option. Just take precautions around potential cross-contact and consider carrying your own copper mug.

Low Gluten and Gluten-Free Ginger Beers

Just like with beer, there are some specialty ginger beers crafted to be low gluten or gluten-free. These provide options for people who cannot tolerate regular ginger beer made from barley, wheat, or rye.

Here are some examples of ginger beers with low or no gluten:

  • Celia gluten-free ginger beer – Brewed from rice and sorghum with certified gluten-free ingredients.
  • Bruce Cost Ginger Beer – Made from ginger, sugar, and carbonated water. Tested at less than 5 ppm gluten.
  • Tile Mountain Ginger Beer – Uses potato, buckwheat, and millet malt to reduce gluten content.
  • Regatta Sugar Free Ginger Beer – Does not contain gluten, wheat, barley, rye or oats.
  • Bundaberg Ginger Beer – While not labeled gluten-free, some well-tolerate it since it lacks barley malt.

Those highly sensitive should scrutinize labels and processes closely. Many ginger beers skirt labeling requirements since they fall under the FDA’s 20 ppm cutoff for claiming gluten-free.

What About Homemade Ginger Beer?

Making homemade Moscow Mules using gluten-free ginger beer is an option for avoiding cross-contact. Choose recipes with ginger, lemon/lime juice, sugar, and soda water or seltzer water.

Avoid recipes with wheat, barley, rye, malt, or malt vinegar. Substitute molasses for malt if needed. Use fresh citrus fruits and read labels on flavor extracts or spices.

Sanitize equipment thoroughly and avoid preparing alongside gluten-containing foods. Home fermentation introduces more risks, so opt for simpler carbonated versions.

Is a Moscow Mule Gluten-Free? The Verdict

When prepared properly with gluten-free ingredients, the classic Moscow Mule cocktail can be enjoyed gluten-free. Vodka, lime juice, and mainstream commercial ginger beers are inherently gluten-free.

Those with celiac disease or sensitivity should remain vigilant about cross-contact risks from equipment, ice, and flavorings. Increased awareness by bars about gluten helps avoid mishaps.

Opting for fresh ingredients, gluten-removed spirits, or specially crafted low/no gluten beers and ginger beers can provide extra assurance. But do thorough label checks on any questionable mixers or garnishes.

While no cocktail is 100% immune from trace gluten exposure, Moscow Mules made with care and the right ingredients can be considered gluten-free.

The Takeaway on Moscow Mules

  • Standard commercial vodka, ginger beer, lime juice, and copper mugs are gluten-free
  • Look out for cross-contact from blenders, ice, taps, and flavored rims
  • Ask about gluten-free practices if highly sensitive
  • Use fresh ingredients and clean garnishes
  • Gluten-removed spirits and specialty gluten-free beers/ginger beers provide options
  • Make your own using simple recipes to control ingredients

While Moscow Mules are not high risk, take precautions to ensure an enjoyable gluten-free experience.

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