Vodka Mojito (And A Word On Alcoholic Beverages)
Saturday, 20 September 2008
When we talk about food allergies or gluten or dairy intolerance, our focus is primarily on the solid foods we put into our bodies. When we talk of beverages, we talk of milk, juices, coffee, soda & high-fructose corn syrup. But what about alcoholic beverages? If you are truly health-conscious, then you probably know you are better off consuming alcohol in moderation or not at all. Alcohol puts a strain on your liver and interferes with your immune system (which handles all of your food allergies). Also, for those of us who are sugar-conscious, alcohol is a form of sugar, and a high-glycemic (fast-absorbing) one at that. Part of why people get hangovers is because alcohol spikes your blood sugar, resulting in a huge crash afterward. With that said, small amounts of alcohol consumed in moderation can be an enjoyable stress-reliever, and in many studies has been proven to help people live longer and healthier (as in the case of red wine). So, on those occasions when you choose to imbibe, what should you drink?
Let’s start with the obvious. Except for those rare brands that say “gluten-free” and probably don’t even closely resemble the original, beer is out. Beers are made from glutinous grains, primarily wheat (hefeweizen) and malted barley. I avoid beer for an additional reason – its high yeast content. (Though I used to regularly enjoy beer in the past, nowadays one beer would send me into a candida outbreak for weeks.) Beer is admittedly one of the things I miss the most – I went to the University of Wisconsin, the only school in the country to serve draft beer at its student union (not to mention Wisconsin is the beer capitol of the world). I used to love a good hefeweizen or Leinenkugel’s red ale out on the terrace on Lake Mendota. But ahh, college memories, I digress. The best alternative is a glass of wine. Now I live in wine country, and no matter where I go out to eat, I can find a local wine that, paired with the right food, compares with the best wine I’ve ever tasted. Wine does have a higher sugar content than beer – but if you have a glass with a meal, it not only makes the food more enjoyable and digestible, but the food helps slow the absorption of the sugar and alcohol. It’s a win-win situation, so every once in awhile, kick back and enjoy.
What about hard liquor and mixed drinks? If you are gluten-intolerant, you’ll want to avoid most bourbons, whiskeys, and scotches. Most are made from a mixture of corn, wheat, rye and/or barley malt; although Maker’s Mark, a corn-mash bourbon that is 100% distilled claims to be gluten-free. I would suggest a brandy or cognac instead, made from grapes. Tequilas, made from the agave plant, are also a good choice. If sugar is an issue, I would avoid cordials or any kind of liqueur such as Frangelico, Amaretto, Grand Marnier, etc. (I don’t have to tell you that a Kahlua & cream is just a bad idea.) Instead of rum, which is made from sugar cane, try a mixed drink with vodka instead. There is some debate about the safety of grain vodkas for celiacs – most are made from wheat, but they claim that the distillation process removes the gluten (make sure it’s at least triple-distilled). If you want to be safe, go for one that is made from potatoes (such as Belvedere or Chopin), or my favorite, Ciroc, which is made from grapes.
So here is my version (or rather my husband’s – he makes them best:) of a favorite cocktail, the mojito, made with vodka instead of rum, and agave syrup instead of sugar:
Fresh mint leaves
1 tsp agave nectar
Squeeze of lime
1 oz. Ciroc vodka
Lightly press the fresh mint leaves in a cocktail glass with a muddler. Fill the glass with crushed ice and add the agave nectar, fresh-squeezed lime juice, and vodka; shake. Top off with club soda and garnish with a sprig of mint.