Many people find they have negative reactions to sulphites used in alcoholic drinks. So how can you avoid these drinks? Are certain types of alcohol beverages worse than others? Here's everything you need to know about sulphites in alcohol.
What are sulphites in alcohol?
Sulphites are sulphur compounds that occur naturally in certain ingredients used to make alcoholic drinks. Sulphites help "prevent the growth of the bacteria that make the drink go cloudy and literally turn the alcohol to vinegar."
Many people believe sulphites added to drinks like wine and beer causes headaches. While there are some studies that disprove this, many people still want to avoid excessive sulphites when they can.
In more serious situations, sulphites can cause allergy-like reactions or intolerances. Common symptoms include:
- wheezing, tightness in the chest (more likely in those with asthma)
- hay fever symptoms
- anaphylaxis (rare cases, the most severe type of allergic reaction)
Below is a comprehensive list of different alcohol drinks, their brands and whether they contain sulphites. It's important to note that labelling laws are different in each country. Some places have to have "sulphites included" if they surpass a certain percentage.
While many of the beers, lagers and ales listed below are shown as "not containing sulphites" this means that there are no added sulphites included on the label. It's a good rule of thumb that beer does naturally include sulphites, but not enough to be included on the label like other drinks.
|Drink Name||Brand||Drink Type||Common Size||Alcohol percentage||Contains Sulphites?||Sulphite Level|
|Absolut Vodka||Absolut||Vodka||70 cl||40%||No|
|Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Cider||Angry Orchard||Cider||500 ml||5%||Yes||The level of sulphites in Angry Orchard ciders is about equal to that found in an average glass of red wine, and a bit less than an average glass of white wine.|
|Aviation Gin||Aviation Gin||Gin||70 cl||42%||No|
|Bacardi Carta Blanca Rum||Bacardi||Rum||70 cl||37.50%||No|
|Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur||Baileys||Liqueur||70 cl||17%||No|
|Balvenie 12 Year Old American Oak Whisky||Balvenie||Whisky||70 cl||43%||No|
|Barefoot Shiraz Wine||Barefoot||Red Wine||75 cl||13.50%||Yes|
|Barefoot Chardonnay Wine||Barefoot||White Wine||75 cl||13.50%||Yes|
|Beck's Lager||Beck's||Lager||275 ml||4.80%||No|
|Birra Moretti Premium Lager||Birra Moretti||Lager||33 cl||4.60%||No|
|Blue Moon Belgian White||Blue Moon||Ale||330 ml||5.40%||No|
|Bombay Sapphire Gin||Bombay Sapphire||Gin||70 cl||40%||No|
|Brewdog Punk IPA||Brewdog||IPA||33 cl||5.60%||No|
|Bud Light Seltzer||Bud Light||Seltzer||12 fl oz||5%||No|
|Bud Light Premium Lager||Budweiser||Lager||30 cl||3.50%||No|
|Budweiser Premium Lager||Budweiser||Lager||33 cl||4.50%||No|
|Busch Beer||Busch||Lager||32 fl oz||4.30%||No|
|Captain Morgan Spiced Gold Rum||Captain Morgan||Rum||70 cl||40%||No|
|Captain Morgan White Rum||Captain Morgan||Rum||70 cl||40%||No|
|Carlsberg Danish Pilsner||Carlsberg||Lager||33 cl||3.80%||No|
|Casillero Del Diablo Malbec Wine||Casillero Del Diablo||Red Wine||75 cl||13.50%||Yes||Any wine containing more than 10 Parts Per Million (ppm) must state ‘Contains Sulphites’ on the label. In practice, this is in almost all wine produced. There are legal limits set for total sulphur dioxide depending on the sugar level of the wine. We comply with these legal requirements (ex. the permitted range starts at a maximum 200 ppm for white and Rose wines and maximum 150 ppm for reds with 5g or less of sugar)|
|Casillero Del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc Wine||Casillero Del Diablo||White Wine||75 cl||13.50%||Yes||Any wine containing more than 10 Parts Per Million (ppm) must state ‘Contains Sulphites’ on the label. In practice, this is in almost all wine produced. There are legal limits set for total sulphur dioxide depending on the sugar level of the wine. We comply with these legal requirements (ex. the permitted range starts at a maximum 200 ppm for white and Rose wines and maximum 150 ppm for reds with 5g or less of sugar)|
|Cazcabel Blanco Tequila||Cazcabel||Tequila||70 cl||38%||No|
|Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur||Chambord||Liqueur||70 cl||16.50%||No|
|Chivas Regal 12 Year Old Whisky||Chivas Regal||Whisky||70 cl||40%||No|
|Ciroc Vodka||Ciroc||Vodka||70 cl||40%||No|
|Corona Extra||Corona||Beer||33 cl||4.50%||No|
|Crown Royal Black Whisky||Crown Royal||Whisky||75 cl||45%||No|
|Crown Royal Canadian Whisky||Crown Royal||Whisky||70 cl||40%||No|
|Dead Man’s Fingers Spiced Rum||Dead Man’s Fingers||Rum||70 cl||37.50%||No|
|Desperados Tequila Lager||Desperados||Lager||33 cl||5.90%||No|
|Disaronno Liqueur||Disaronno||Liqueur||70 cl||28%||No|
|Don Julio Reposado Tequila||Don Julio||Tequila||70 cl||38%||No|
|Echo Falls Pink Gin||Echo Falls||Gin||70 cl||37.50%||No|
|Estrella Damm Beer||Estrella Damm||Lager||330 ml||4.60%||No|
|Fireball Cinnamon Liqueur||Fireball||Whisky||70 cl||33%||No|
|Glenfiddich 12 Year Old Whisky||Glenfiddich||Whisky||70 cl||40%||No|
|Glenmorangie Lasanta 12 Year Old Whisky||Glenmorangie||Whisky||70 cl||43%||No|
|Godiva Chocolate Liqueur||Godiva||Liqueur||75 cl||15%||No|
|Gordon’s London Dry Gin||Gordon’s||Gin||70 cl||37.50%||No|
|Gordon’s Premium Pink Gin||Gordon’s||Gin||70 cl||37.50%||No|
|Greenall’s Original London Dry Gin||Greenall’s||Gin||70 cl||37.50%||No|
|Grey Goose Vodka||Grey Goose||Vodka||70 cl||40%||No|
|Havana Club Anejo 3 Year Old Rum||Havana||Rum||70 cl||40%||No|
|Heineken Premium Lager||Heineken||Lager||33 cl||5%||No|
|Hendricks Gin||Hendricks||Gin||70 cl||41.40%||No|
|Hop House 13 Lager||Hop House||Lager||33 cl||5%||No|
|Hpnotiq Blue Liqueur||Hpnotiq||Liqueur||70 cl||17%||No|
|Jack Daniels Old No.7 Whiskey||Jack Daniels||Whisky||70 cl||40%||No|
|Jagermeister Liqueur||Jagermeister||Liqueur||70 cl||35%||No|
|Jameson Black Barrel Whisky||Jameson||Whisky||70 cl||40%||No|
|Jameson Irish Whisky||Jameson||Whisky||70 cl||40%||No|
|Johnnie Walker Black Label Whisky||Johnnie Walker||Whisky||70 cl||40%||No|
|Jose Cuervo Gold Tequila||Jose Cuervo||Tequila||70 cl||40%||No|
|Kahlua Liqueur||Kahlua||Liqueur||70 cl||20%||No|
|Kopparberg Pear Cider||Kopparberg||Cider||50 cl||4%||Yes||The amount of sulphites varies between different products and batches, but most of Kopparberg ciders contain on average 50-70 mg/l, expressed as total SO2.|
|Kopparberg Strawberry & Lime Cider||Kopparberg||Cider||50 cl||4%||Yes||
The amount of sulphites varies between different products and batches, but most of Kopparberg ciders contain on average 50-70 mg/l, expressed as total SO2.
|Kraken Black Spiced Rum||Kraken||Rum||70 cl||40%||No|
|La Belle Etoile Pinot Noir Wine||La Belle Etoile||Red Wine||75 cl||12%||Yes|
|Magners Apple Cider||Magners||Cider||56.8 cl||4.50%||Yes||Levels of sulphites in Mangers ciders vary depending on flavour and packaging type (glass, can etc). For Magners Original Can approx. sulphite level is 20ppm.|
|Malibu Rum||Malibu||Rum||70 cl||21%||No|
|Michelob Ultra||Michelob||Lager||330 ml||4.20%||No|
|Monkey 47 Gin||Monkey 47||Gin||50 cl||47%||No|
|Old Mout Kiwi & Lime Cider||Old Mout||Cider||50 cl||4%||Yes|
|Peroni Nastro Azzurro||Peroni||Lager||33 cl||5.10%||No|
|Pimms No.1 Cup Liqueur||Pimms||Liqueur||70 cl||25%||No|
|Rekorderlig Apple Cider||Rekorderlig||Cider||50 cl||4%||Yes|
|San Miguel Lager||San Miguel||Lager||33 cl||5%||No|
|Skyy Vodka||Skyy||Vodka||70 cl||40%||No|
|Smirnoff Vodka||Smirnoff||Vodka||70 cl||37.50%||No|
|Sourz Cherry Liqueur||Sourz||Liqueur||70 cl||15%||No|
|Sourz Apple Liqueur||Sourz||Liqueur||70 cl||15%||No|
|Stella Artois Apple Cidre||Stella Artois||Cider||50 cl||4%||Yes|
|Stella Artois Lager||Stella Artois||Lager||33 cl||4.80%||No|
|Strongbow Dark Fruits Cider||Strongbow||Cider||50 cl||4%||Yes|
|Suntory Roku Gin||Suntory||Gin||70 cl||43%||No|
|Thatchers Gold Cider||Thatchers||Cider||50 cl||4.80%||Yes||All of Thatchers ciders contain sulphites at less than 200 mg/L.|
|Thatchers Katy Cider||Thatchers||Cider||50 cl||7.40%||Yes||
All of Thatchers ciders contain sulphites at less than 200 mg/L.
|The Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask Whisky||The Macallan||Whisky||70 cl||40%||No|
|Wild Turkey 101 Whiskey||Wild Turkey||Whisky||70 cl||50.50%||No|
How can I find out if a drink has sulphites?
It's not always easy to tell if an alcoholic drink has sulphites in it, but thankfully new rules have been making it easier for consumers to find out.
The best place to check is the label. Many countries require "sulphites included" on the label. While they won't tell you how many sulphites, or to what percentage, it will at least give you an indication of if there are sulphites present.
Below are some examples of labels where sulphites are included.
What alcoholic drinks have the most sulphites?
If you're looking to avoid sulphites, here's some things to keep in mind.
- A good rule of thumb is to assume all wines and ciders have a percentage of sulphites in order to preserve the freshness of the drink.
Beer is a little bit confusing. There are naturally-occurring sulphites in beer to help inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. However, most countries only require the label to include "has sulphites" if there is a high percentage (or added sulphites on top of the naturally occurring ones). The chart above shows "No Added Sulphites" on many of the beer options. This doesn't mean that there are no sulphites present, but the level of sulphites isn't high enough that it would warrant it to be listed on the label. While sulphites in beer are quite likely at a very low level, they may still be present as the yeast produces it during fermentation. If you are allergic to sulphites, or have a negative reaction to them, the level could still trigger a response.
- Drinks with a higher alcohol percentage like whisky, vodka and gin will likely be without sulphites.
After new regulations were passed, the EU recommends that a "acceptable daily intake" of sulphites is 42mg per day for a 60kg female. Having said that, a medium glass of white wine contains 26mg of sulphites on average. Typically, white wine has more sulphites than red wine, but both types are often triggers for people with sulphites intolerances.
Some organic wines will be lower in sulphites, and some will call themselves "sulphite-free", although sulphites occur naturally in wine. To be "sulphite-free" under EU regulations, a wine must contain less than 10mg per litre. In practice, few people suffer a reaction to less than 20mg of sulphites. The maximum permitted level is 200mg per litre.
Beer usually has naturally-occurring sulphites but few had added sulphites on top of that. If you check the label, you'll likely see allergen notices for things like barley, oats, wheat and gluten, but likely not sulphites. If there is a higher percentage of sulphites, it should be listed on the label (such as Tetley's Cask).
Why are sulphites used?
Sulphites in food and drink have been around since Roman times, and will likely stick around for awhile longer. Sulphites work great at preserving food, minimising bacterial growth, reduce food spoilage, and can even help preserve medication.