Peppermint liqueur is a popular ingredient in many cocktails and desserts, especially around the holidays. It has a minty, refreshing flavor that adds a burst of coolness to drinks and sweets. Many brands of peppermint liqueur are clear in color like vodka or gin, while others have a pale green hue from mint extracts. When sipping on a candy cane martini or nibbling on a chocolate-peppermint cake, most people don’t stop to ponder whether the peppermint liqueur contains gluten. But for those who follow a gluten-free diet, either for medical reasons or by choice, this is an important question to answer. Let’s take a closer look at what ingredients make up peppermint liqueur and discuss how likely it is to contain traces of gluten.
What is Peppermint Liqueur?
Peppermint liqueur is an alcoholic beverage flavored with mint, sugar, and other natural or artificial flavorings. The base spirit is usually a neutral grain spirit or brandy. The minty flavor comes from distilled peppermint oil extracted from the peppermint plant. While recipes can vary between brands, a typical peppermint liqueur contains roughly the following ingredients:
- Neutral spirits – The main alcoholic component made from grains or grapes. Vodka or brandy are commonly used.
- Sugar – Granulated cane sugar or simple syrup provides sweetness to balance the strong mint flavor.
- Peppermint oil or extract – Provides the signature minty flavor and aroma.
- Water – Adds volume and dilutes the alcohol content.
- Natural or artificial flavors – Other flavorings may be added such as vanilla, cocoa, herbs, or spices.
- Food coloring – Some brands add green food coloring to enhance the minty appearance.
The main alcoholic component of peppermint liqueur is either a grain spirit like vodka or a grape spirit like brandy. The choice of base spirit can influence whether the final liqueur contains traces of gluten.
Gluten Content in Vodka and Brandy
Most vodkas are made from fermented grains such as wheat, rye, barley, corn, or potatoes. The gluten content depends on the specific grains used:
- Wheat and rye contain gluten
- Barley contains some gluten
- Corn and potatoes are gluten-free
During the distillation process, the gluten proteins are separated from the final distilled spirit. According to FDA regulations, vodka must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten to be labeled as “gluten-free”. Most commercially-available vodkas test well below this threshold. However, some individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity react to even tiny amounts of gluten. So vodka is generally considered low gluten but not 100% gluten-free.
Brandy starts with fermented grape juice rather than grains. Grapes do not contain any gluten proteins. So brandy derived from grapes is inherently gluten-free. However, some types of brandy are aged in barrels previously used to store whiskey or other gluten-containing spirits. Though distillers must wash used barrels to remove residue, trace amounts of gluten could potentially leach into the brandy. The amounts are typically miniscule, but could still affect those highly sensitive.
So in summary, a peppermint liqueur made with a vodka base has a small chance of containing traces of gluten from the grains used to produce the vodka. A brandy base spirit has a lower risk of gluten content.
Other Ingredients in Peppermint Liqueur
Aside from the base spirit, peppermint liqueur contains sugar, mint flavorings, water, and sometimes other ingredients like cacao, vanilla or food coloring. None of these additional ingredients contain any gluten.
Here are the common gluten-free ingredients found in peppermint liqueur:
- Sugar – Typically cane sugar which is gluten-free. Sometimes corn syrup is used which is also gluten-free.
- Peppermint oil or extract – Derived from peppermint leaves so it is gluten-free.
- Water – Does not contain gluten.
- Food coloring – Dyes and colors are gluten-free.
- Natural flavors – Gluten-free flavors like vanilla, cocoa, caramel, or spices may be added.
The only potential source of gluten comes from the base spirit, not the additional flavorings.
Another consideration is the risk of cross-contamination during production and bottling at the distillery. Since many distilleries make multiple products containing gluten, traces could potentially get into the peppermint liqueur through shared equipment, bottling lines, facilities, etc. Thorough cleaning and batch separation procedures can minimize this risk.
Those with celiac disease or wheat allergies are most sensitive to cross-contamination compared to others who simply avoid gluten by choice. The amount of gluten that can trigger symptoms varies greatly from person to person.
Peppermint Liqueur Brands
Popular brands of peppermint liqueur include Rumple Minze, Hiram Walker, Arrow, and Dekuyper. The gluten content can vary between different producers.
Here is the gluten information for some top selling peppermint liqueur brands:
|Rumple Minze||Not gluten-free. Contains wheat in the formula according to the manufacturer.|
|Hiram Walker||Not certified gluten-free but likely very low gluten from distilled grains. Use caution if highly sensitive.|
|Arrow||Not gluten-free. Contains grain neutral spirits.|
|Dekuyper||Considered gluten-free. Does not contain any wheat, barley, rye or gluten ingredients.|
As shown above, some brands definitely contain gluten while others are likely to have extremely low levels from distilled grain alcohol. Only a few major brands are considered gluten-free. Individuals with celiac disease or wheat allergies need to check the ingredients list and contact the manufacturer to investigate further.
Distillation Removes Most Gluten
While the base grain alcohol may derive from wheat, rye or barley, the distillation process removes the vast majority of gluten protein from the final spirit. One study found traditional distillation reduces gluten content in grain spirits down to <5 ppm (parts per million). Spirits labeled as "gluten-free" must test below 20 ppm. So even liquors made from gluten grains generally contain minimal residual gluten. However, those with celiac disease or sensitivities still need to use caution and consider potential cross-contamination risks depending on the brand.
Caution for Those with Celiac Disease or Sensitivities
Here are some general recommendations for those with celiac disease, wheat allergies or gluten sensitivities:
- Check the label carefully for any mention of wheat, barley or rye.
- Contact the manufacturer to ask specifically about gluten content.
- Look for bottles labeled as gluten-free or that test below 20 ppm.
- Start with very small servings to check for any reactions.
- Avoid brands made on equipment also used for gluten-containing products.
- Stick to peppermint liqueurs made from grape or corn brandy for lowest risk.
Those with mild gluten sensitivity or who avoid it by choice can be less strict about trace amounts of gluten from distillation. But any detectable gluten could still cause issues for those with celiac disease or wheat allergies. When in doubt, contact the distillery directly for their most up-to-date gluten information.
Making Your Own Peppermint Liqueur
Concerned about traces of gluten in commercial peppermint liqueurs? Consider making a batch at home where you control all the ingredients.
It’s surprisingly easy to infuse vodka or brandy with peppermint extract and simple syrup. That way you can use a gluten-free base spirit and avoid any risk of cross-contamination from the production facility.
Here is a basic homemade peppermint liqueur recipe:
- 2 cups vodka or brandy
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 tsp pure peppermint extract
- Drops green food coloring (optional)
- Combine corn syrup and water in a small saucepan.
- Heat over medium, stirring frequently, until mixture reaches 160°F on a candy thermometer.
- Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
- Stir in peppermint extract and food coloring if desired.
- Pour syrup mixture into a clean glass jar.
- Add vodka or brandy.
- Seal jar and shake vigorously to combine.
- Let sit for 1-2 days to infuse flavors.
- Taste and adjust sweetener or mint flavor as needed.
- Shake before serving over ice or mixing into cocktails or desserts.
This easy homemade version avoids any concerns about gluten content. Feel free to customize the flavor profile to your liking with extra peppermint, other herbs or spices, additional sweetener, or different based spirits.
Peppermint Liqueur Recipes
Peppermint liqueur brightens up both sweet and savory dishes. Here are some delicious ideas for ways to use it:
- Candy Cane Martini – Blend peppermint liqueur, vodka, and white crème de cacao, garnish with a candy cane.
- Peppermint Patty – Mix with chocolate liqueur and cream for a liquid version of the classic candy.
- North Pole – Combine with spiced rum, cocoa powder, and hazelnut liqueur.
- Peppermint Mocha – Use in place of chocolate syrup in a White Russian cocktail.
- Peppermint Bark – Drizzle over dark chocolate bark sprinkled with crushed candy canes.
- Peppermint Ice Cream – Swirl into homemade or store-bought ice cream.
- Peppermint Hot Cocoa – Add a splash to hot chocolate for an extra minty indulgence.
- Candy Cane Cookies – Use in candy cane shaped sugar cookies or other holiday baked goods.
- Mint Sauce – Mix with sugar and vinegar to serve with lamb.
- Peppermint Drizzle – Lightly drizzle over fruits, oysters, meats or cheeses for fresh flair.
- Herb Rub – Blend with rosemary, thyme and crushed peppercorns to season roasts or chops.
In moderation, enjoying peppermint liqueur should be safe for most people avoiding gluten. But take care to choose brands made with gluten-free base spirits and avoid cross-contamination risks. Consider making your own homemade batch using vodka or brandy and pure peppermint extract for full control over ingredients. Sip your peppermint liqueur creatively in cocktails, desserts, sauces, and more!
Peppermint liqueur contains a base spirit of either vodka or brandy infused with minty flavor. Vodka can sometimes be made from gluten grains, while brandy is inherently gluten-free. During the distillation process, most of the gluten proteins are removed, so the residual gluten in vodka or grain-based spirits is typically negligible. However, those with celiac disease or wheat allergies still need to confirm the gluten content with manufacturers and practice caution. Many mass-market peppermint liqueur brands contain minimal traces of gluten from the distilled base alcohol, while a few specialty options are labeled as gluten-free. Making your own homemade peppermint liqueur is an easy way to control the ingredients. Overall, enjoying peppermint liqueur in moderation should be fine for most people avoiding gluten, but take care if you are highly sensitive. Sip peppermint liqueur in festive cocktails and sweets or get creative drizzling it over savory dishes. With the proper precautions, most people following a gluten-free diet can delight in the refreshing flavor of peppermint liqueur.