Young Adults, Food Allergy, and Alcohol: Is Your Drink Safe?


Reaching the legal age of drinking means those with a food allergy have one more thing to watch out for: how their drinks are prepared at a party, restaurant, or bar.

Allergic adolescents who use a doctored ID at pubs and liquor stores need to be cautious as well. (This illegal practice is not recommended, but we all know it happens.)

Pubs and the like are dangerous for those with food allergies because they are loud, busy establishments where allergens can easily hide. Concerns expressed to a server about an allergy are easily lost in bar noise, and the rush of drink orders. Plus, bar personal may be unschooled, or minimally trained, in the concerns of allergy sufferers.

What To Watch For

The places allergens can hide in a bar are numerous, and those unhidden lend themselves to cross-contamination. For instance:

  • There are many sources of protein used in preparing drinks, including mixers, garnishes, foams, and infusions.
  • Derivatives of milk are a binding agent in Margarita mixes.
  • Bartenders may use a blender or shaker without rinsing away the ingredients - such as milk - from a previous order.
  • Manhattans are sometimes made with a black-walnut bitter; cachaca and cashew juice are the ingredients of a trendy Brazilian drink.
  • A Tom Collins is traditionally made using cucumber; sangrias contain fruit; apricot is found in Disaronno.
  • Some cocktails use amaretto, or banana flavored liqueurs—any flavored alcoholic beverage might contain a nut or fruit allergen.
  • Drinks can contain unexpected allergy triggers such as a chug of cream (used in a “buttery nipple”), or a bit of bleu cheese tucked in an olive.
  • Some potential triggers are obvious, such as a garnish of shrimp, chunks of sausage, or cheese cubes. Yet, any foods handled by the bartender can easily be a source of cross-contamination.

Since caution diminishes as alcohol intake increases, vigilance about food allergens in alcoholic beverages is especially tricky—and it is certain that food hygiene and product labeling will be negligible at college frat parties and office bashes.

College and Workforce Prep

If you are heading off to college soon, or into the work force, you know what foods to avoid at a restaurant, and how to question the servers or chef. You may already ask your dates to avoid eating certain nuts or foods—if they want to enjoy kissing later on.

It is just as important, before enjoying the pleasure of mixed drinks or liqueurs, that you learn the ingredients of a particular cocktail prior to trying it. Be assertive about how your drinks are prepared, and always have your medication and auto-injector with you.

Source: Washington Post Photo credit: Jason Scragz