CocktailSafe does not aim to be a definitive resource on allergies and dietary restrictions, but some basic information is below.
These eight foods account for 90% of food-allergic reactions: milk, egg, peanut, tree nut (walnut, cashew, etc.), fish, shellfish, soy, wheat. [link]
Nut allergies – peanuts and tree nuts
- Some items in cocktails contain nuts or almonds, but go by names that could be unfamiliar to patrons. Consider labeling explicitly orgeat (almond syrup), falernum (which often contains almonds), and nut liqueurs. Some beers, especially seasonal brews, contain nuts.
- People with tree nut allergies are usually not allergic to coconuts and nutmeg – but it’s always best to ask.
- People with tree nut allergies may also be allergic to pink peppercorns. From the NIH [link]: "Pink peppercorn is not a true pepper, but dried roasted berries derived from Schinus terebinthifolius."
- Some people are allergic to chickpeas/garbanzo beans as part of a legume allergy that includes peanuts and beans. Not all customers will know that the term "aquafaba" refers to chickpea water. Bartenders should consider labelling aquafaba explicitly as "chickpea water" or adding a note somewhere on the menu that aquafaba is chickpea water. If a customer alerts staff to a peanut allergy, caution should be taken to inquire about legumes/aquafaba.
- Distilled nuts: some spirits including Bombay Sapphire and Beefeater gins include distilled nuts in their formulas. A paper by the European Food Safety Authority from 2007 [link to PDF] concludes, "Based on the data submitted by the applicant, the Panel notes that proteins and peptides are not carried over into the distillate during a properly controlled distillation process, at least not in amounts above 1 mg/L. Although the analytical evidence is derived from experiments that were performed predominantly with almonds, the Panel considers that distillates made from nuts are unlikely to trigger a severe allergic reaction in susceptible individuals." Note that this study also performed a literature review of reported allergic reactions to distilled nut spirits and didn't find any reported ones. "The applicant’s literature search did not reveal allergic reactions after consumption of distillates, where almonds or nuts have been used as flavouring substances before distillation. It remains possible that adverse effects due to drinking of distillates where the nuts have been used as flavouring substances before distillation may not be perceived as due to nut allergens but rather be attributed to alcohol, and under-reporting may thus have occurred. "
Avoid/ask about: oyster stouts, Worcestershire sauce, clarified juices/wine (see “fining agents”), Clamato juice.
Vegetarian diets technically mean ‘nothing that kills an animal, but harvesting an animal is okay’ so that means poultry and seafood are out; milk, eggs, cheese, etc. are in. Avoid Worcestershire sauce (anchovies), pechuga mezcal, gelatin (jello shots), Clamato juice, beef bouillon in Bloody Mary/Michelada, meat fat-washed products, insect salts that sometimes accompany Mexican drinks, spirits that are colored with cochineal (carmine), some clarified juices (see “fining agents”).
Vegan diets mean ‘nothing that uses an animal’, so no dairy or eggs or honey. Avoid all vegetarian no-nos, plus additionally egg whites/nogs/flips, milk, honey, cream liqueurs, milk-washed ingredients such as clarified punches. For egg white drinks, consider aquafaba (chick pea brine) as an alternative.
Avoid beer, some people have reported issues with caramel coloring (see “caramel coloring”), some orgeats contain barley, some Worcestershire sauces contain malt vinegar.
For people who identify as having “severe” allergies of any sort – make sure the cocktail shaker, barspoon, and everything else used have been thoroughly washed separately with soap before preparing the drink. In a rinse-sink situation, allergens can easily cling/spread to equipment.
Resources and Further Reading
- Servsafe.com from the National Restaurant Association offers online and classroom courses and certifications in food safety and now allergen safety (for a fee) [link].
- Barnivore: Lists which alcohol products are vegetarian/vegan. [link]
- Long list of allergens in commercial spirits/liqueurs (we have not fact-checked this) [link]
- Food allergy information from the FDA [link]