Thursday, January 22, 2009

Clearing up the debate about Everclear

I was recently at a restaurant in Boulder on assignment for a magazine, writing about the chef and his approach to cooking (more on that and a GF review of the restaurant after my article comes out). After dinner, I sat at the bar chatting with the bartender, who makes many of his own liquors - amaretto, triple sec, sambuca, and more - from scratch. To oversimplify the process, he does it by making infusions...of almond for the amaretto, of orange for the triple sec, and of fennel for the sambuca. (The amaretto and triple sec were good. The sambuca was exceptional.)

The base for the infusion is Everclear, a neutral grain spirit. Neutral grain spirits are a class of alcohol characterized by their clear, colorless, and flavorless qualities. They also have very high concentrations of ethyl alcohol (ethanol) - we're talking very high concentrations, on the order of 150 to 190 proof. Taken straight, this stuff is like jet fuel and can do serious bodily harm. Used for a higher good though (such as an infusion), and neutral grain spirits have a rightful purpose.

Within the GF community, products like Everclear have typically raised a red flag, and they've been widely debated about whether or not they're gluten-free. First, it's worthwhile to note that Everclear is sold in two strengths: 190 proof (which is banned in some states), and 150 proof (sold where the higher proof is outlawed). The debate comes from the word "grain," and the fact that neutral grain spirits are typically derived (distilled) from cereal grain. I've already covered the ins and outs of distillation here, so I won't belabor that point. It's also worth noting that corn happens to be the most common grain used for neutral grain spirits, so there's no gluten to be concerned about in those instances.

To be doubly sure, I contacted the folks at Luxco, the parent company for Everclear. They confirmed that Everclear is derived from corn, and that their version of neutral grain spirits is gluten-free. So whether you're using Everclear for infusions of homemade liquors, or for other purposes, rest assured that it's gluten-free.

- Pete

14 comments:

GFE--gluten free easily said...

Pretty much the legal version of moonshine, a.k.a. corn liquor. ;-) You've reassured many people, Pete. We are all very grateful!

Shirley

Concetta said...

This sounds like an interesting conversation with the bartender. It amazes me how you deveolpe some very interesting information

Kerrie aka GFShaolin said...

I went to college in a state that the higher proof was legal. If I remember correctly, fraternities used to get a massive garbage can, pour a gallon of the higher proof everclear in it and fill the rest with Kool-Aid. You can still taste the booze.

Rob from CO said...

Very helpful =D Thanks

peterbronski said...

You're very welcome, Rob!

Cheers, Pete

Anonymous said...

I know that this is an old post, but I've been looking for confirmation that Everclear was gluten-free, so I just wanted to say thanks!

I've used Everclear many times to make my own liquors at home, but a friend of mine was concerned she may not be able to have any if it contained gluten!

peterbronski said...

Hi Anonymous... Happy to help!

Cheers, Pete

Anonymous said...

very happy to hear this as well i thought i had become violently ill after consuming everclear in a mixed drink but i am now thinking it must have been something else, thank you so much for your help!

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I use everclear to make tinctures and was afraid that I could not use it any longer. Especially since I still have quite a lot of the last batch! Phew.

peterbronski said...

Happy to help!

Raj said...

Hi,

Greetings,

Hearing that Everclear is made from corn raises a huge red flag for me. Most corn in the US is GMO.
Also discovered that the enzyme, glucoamylase, which is used to make Everclear is GMO.

Definitely NOT SAFE.

peterbronski said...

Hi Raj... This is a gluten-free blog, and the fact remains that Everclear is gluten-free, and thus "safe" for someone following a gluten-free diet.

The GMO issue a separate one entirely. As a matter of personal preference, we stay away from GMO foods. That said, a product such as Everclear doesn't raise concerns for me. The glucoamylase is an enzyme used during initial fermentation. Similarly, GMO corn - used as the base for fermentation - is early in the process. Once a neutral grain spirit such as Everclear is ready for market, the distillation and filtration ensures that you're left with nothing but 95% ethanol and 5% water. Any remnants of the GMO inputs are left behind.

That said, Alchemical Solutions in Oregon is a certified organic micro-distillery making neutral grain spirits with non-GMO corn and non-GMO glucoamylase.

Cheers, Pete

Anonymous said...

Hi Raj,

Thank you for your comment. I agree about the corn issues and GMO. Your comment was highlighted in my Google search results, and it made my search very simple.

I make herbal extracts and will now be looking for another source of ORGANIC ethanol, to avoid GMO's. Do you know if they always use the GMO enzyme, glucoamylase? They couldn't if the product is organic, right?

Thanks again. Sara

Anonymous said...

I now see your comment, Pete. Thank you for that source, and good to know about the glucoamylase. Sara