Here's How Much Sugar Is In Your Whiskey: The Surprising Truth

Informational

Whiskey with ice

Do you like to sip on a whiskey neat or with a bit of water? Maybe you like to add a little bit of soda, sweetener, or other mixers. You're probably thinking about how much sugar is in your whiskey, no matter how you drink it. 

Like all distilled spirits, whiskey has minimal (about 0.044 g per 1.5 ounces) or no sugar at all. But this could change depending on how much, how often, and how you drink your whiskey. 

We will examine the composition of whiskey and discuss how to make healthier choices when consuming it. Stay tuned for more information!

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How is Whiskey Made?

Two glasses of whiskey

To answer the question, "is whisky sugar-free?" let us look at how it is made to understand it better.

Many different factors go into whiskey production, starting with high-quality ingredients. There are three crucial ingredients for whiskey: water, yeast, and grain.

The most common grains used for whiskey are barley, corn, wheat, and rye. These are excellent sources of starch that will then be converted to sugar.

One of the major factors that determine the quality of the whiskey is water. The water source should ensure cleanliness and clarity. Moreover, it shouldn't taste like anything such as iron or chlorine. The importance of water in making whiskey cannot be overlooked, and for this reason, many distilleries are located by a river or lake.

Malting

Malted barley

Production starts with malting the grain. This process gets the grains soaked in water and afterward, they are laid on the floor. The grains will start to germinate or partially sprout with the grains being damp.

Basically, this process allows the grains to secrete an enzyme that would convert the starches found in the grains into sugar. The grains also need constant turning so they don't get too hot. The grains are left to germinate for about a week; they're dried using a kiln to stop them from growing further. The product of this stage is called malted barley or malt.

Mashing

Process of mashing of milled malt grains.

At this point, the dried grains or malted barley get pounded or milled until they turn into a powdery substance called "grist." You need to get the right consistency of the grist because this affects how much sugar is extracted and how the malt tastes.

The grist is then combined with hot water and transferred to a mash tun or tank to extract as much sugar as possible. This mixture is known as the mash or wort, which is then cooled to start the fermentation process.

Fermentation

Whiskey fermenting tank

Fermentation starts by transferring the cooled mash to fermentation vessels or vats called washbacks. In the United States, they allow the vessels to be opened, but the vessels are usually closed in Scotland.

Fermentation is where yeast is added so it can transform the sugars into alcohol, lasting for about two to four days. The duration of the fermentation process directly affects the whiskey's quality. There will be no residual sugars when the fermentation process is complete most of the time.

Distillation

Stills Inside a Scottish whiskey distillery

The distillation process concentrates alcohol by heating the fermented product. When this happens, the alcohol vaporizes and separates from the water and grain particles. Eventually, this will cool or condense and become a liquid again.

This step actually makes the liquid more alcoholic. Some types of whiskeys require double or even triple distillation, thus increasing their alcohol content. Most distilleries use copper stills or pot stills when distilling, as this element removes bad aromas and flavors.

If ever there are tiny amounts of residual sugars after the fermenting stage, they will not vaporize during distillation. Instead, they sink at the bottom of the pot stills and are ultimately left out for the next stage.

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Aging

Whiskey in wooden barrels

This step involves storing the liquid in wood barrels and letting it mature. American whiskeys are usually aged in oak casks. As for whiskeys produced outside America, the barrel wood varies depending on the producer's preference or standards.

The type of wood used for aging whiskey can make a difference in its flavor profile. However, whiskey made from corn can go unaged or aged. With barrel aging, the whiskey can take on some sweetness from the oak casks.

This phenomenon starts with the toasting and charring of the barrels. There are traces of sugars present in the wood, and if it comes in contact with heat, the sugar caramelizes. When whiskey goes into the barrels, the caramel gets incorporated with it. This fusion gives the whiskey a bit of sweetness and other unique flavors.

How Much Sugar is in Whiskey?

Bourbon cocktail with sugar cubes and orange zest

As mentioned, most bottles of whiskey contain zero sugar. However, some bottles will display an amount, albeit a small one. Whiskeys typically range from 40 to 68% in terms of ABV. The most common bottles are 86 proof or 43% ABV. In rare cases, 100 ml of this whiskey contains about 0.1 grams of sugar. 

The standard pour of whiskey is 1.5 ounces or about 44 ml. This serving would be equivalent to about 0.044 grams (0.0016 oz.) of sugar—resulting in your taste buds not detecting the sugar content when you drink whiskey.

If you were to have two or three glasses of whiskey in one sitting, your sugar intake would be 0.088 grams (0.003 oz.) and 0.132 grams (0.005 oz.), respectively. If you add ice to your whiskey glass, the result will be the same since ice or melted water will have no impact on the sugar content of the whiskey. 

But, if you will be making a cocktail with whiskey, the drink's sugar content will be increased. Let’s take an Old Fashioned cocktail as an example. The ingredients for this drink include whiskey or bourbon, granulated sugar or sugar cube, Angostura bitters, and water.

One sugar cube contains about 0.14 oz. (4 gm), while two dashes of Angostura bitters have about 0.004 oz. (0.11 gm) of sugar. These are the only two ingredients contributing sugar to an Old Fashioned cocktail.

However, this amount could still increase if the bourbon has that tiny amount of sugar mentioned above or adjusted the proportions of the ingredients.

If you use sugary drinks with a higher amount of sugar, like cola or orange juice, more sugar is added.

Do Blended Whiskeys and Flavored Whiskeys Have Sugar?

Glasses of whiskey with a cigar in an ashtray

Blended whiskey is made by mixing two or more different whiskeys. Distillers often do this practice because it allows the flavor profiles of different whiskeys to be as one to create great complexities. It also allows them to use cheap grains and mature the whiskey for less time.

Some blended whiskeys are added with colorings, neutral grain spirits, and flavorings. Like single malts and single grains, blended whiskeys can have a trivial amount of sugar from different sources such as barrel aging, colorings, and other additives.

In whiskey production, caramel coloring is common, particularly in Scotch whiskey. It is basically produced by heating sugar until they become a deep-colored syrup, then added to the whiskey.

It is mainly done to adjust the appearance of the liquor rather than impart taste. Like whiskey, it only has a very small amount of sugar.

Furthermore, the casks used for the aging process of whiskeys are also responsible for imparting a little bit of sugar. Sherry casks impart more sugar than oak as these kinds of barrels were once used to age sherry—a fortified wine.

In terms of flavored whiskeys, they are known to have more sugar than pure whiskey from their flavorings. Technically, a flavored whiskey is not a reasonably pure spirit since its alcohol content is lower than the minimum ABV of whiskey, which is 40%.

With this, they fit the label of "whiskey liqueur" better. One example is Fireball whiskey, which has 33% ABV and contains 11 grams per 1.5-ounce serving.

Can Whiskey Contribute to Weight Gain?

Weighing Scale and Measuring Tape

Whiskey can still add some numbers to your weight. We've already established that some whiskeys have trace amounts of sugar. But, even if a bottle of whiskey has zero sugar, other factors can make you gain weight when consuming it.

The first factor is calories. A standard pour of 86-proof whiskey has about 105 calories. This number will multiply depending on how many whiskey glasses you take or if you're drinking whiskey cocktails.

Furthermore, alcohol is known to have appetite-boosting properties and induce hunger. This property can lead to the constant consumption of food to satisfy the hunger brought on by the whiskey. It can also cause one to have poor food choices when regularly drinking alcohol.

How to Control Your Sugar Intake

Whiskey glass in a hand of two mans

There are a number of ways to enjoy a sophisticated glass of whiskey while controlling your sugar intake.

Let's start with the type of whiskeys ideal for people with a sugar level to control. At this point, we already know that the sugar source of whiskey isn't particularly from itself but from the additives.

So initially, you should choose a bottle of whiskey without sugar added. Go for bottles with an American “straight” label or the bottled-in-bond label, as these kinds of whiskey aren't mixed with any additives, not even coloring.

The method for drinking whiskey is also a factor here. If you don't want to disrupt your blood sugar level, it's better to have whiskey on the rocks, neat, or with water.

Drinking whiskey "neat" simply means nothing is added to the spirit. It comes straight from the bottle and into the glass, and it has to be at room temperature.

While "On the rocks" means you'll add a few ice cubes into the glass to enjoy the whiskey cold. "With water" literally means whiskey is added with one to two drops of water to agitate shy aromas and flavors in hiding.

Two of the most common mixers for whiskey are cola and ginger ale, which are high in sugar. 360-ml ginger ale has around 1.16 ounces (33 gm) of added sugar, while cola has about 1.20 ounces (34 gm). If you want to lessen your sugar intake, you can use sugar-free or low-carb mixers instead.

Above all, moderate drinking and being at the legal drinking age are the best ways to enjoy and keep your intake under control.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), moderate consumption for men is a maximum of two servings per day. For women is a maximum of one serving per day.

It's also not necessary that you drink alcohol on a daily basis, so if you're watching out for your weight, you can consume alcohol less frequently.

How Much Sugar Is In Whiskey FAQ

1. Does alcohol intake affect blood sugar?

Drinking alcohol is a usual activity for people to enjoy. However, those with diabetes or other blood sugar issues should be careful because too much alcohol can cause serious problems.

A healthy lifestyle affects how your body reacts when you drink liquor. Alcohol intake can disrupt your blood sugar stability and can cause it to drop or rocket.

Heavy drinkers can wreak havoc on their energy levels and health. Chronic alcohol consumption will eventually reduce insulin's effectiveness in your body, leading to increased blood sugar levels.

2. Is whiskey considered healthy?

There's a common misconception that all alcoholic drinks are bad for you. This mistaken belief isn't particularly true as there are alcoholic drinks that benefit your health if taken moderately, such as whiskey!

Regarding the health benefits of alcoholic drinks, red wine seems to receive all the praises for its antioxidants.

What people don't know is whiskey actually possesses just as many antioxidants as red wine, according to one study. The same study also found that a moderate amount of whiskey supplemented with other sources of antioxidants can keep chances of getting heart disease at bay.

3. Is it okay for diabetic people to consume whiskey?

The effect of whiskey can vary on every person's body and condition. If your sugar levels are not looking too good, it would be much safer to lay off the alcohol as it can trigger hypoglycemia or low blood glucose.

However, if you're doing a great job stabilizing your blood sugar, you may drink whiskey, given you're drinking moderately.

4. Does whiskey convert into sugar in your body?

Whiskey can't push blood sugar values up because it doesn't hold many carbs. The liver also doesn't convert ethanol to sugar.

The alcohol in your stomach is broken down to form several different substances, and all of these intermediate compounds don't end up as sugar. Ethanol is eventually converted into carbon dioxide or water byproducts!

5. Is whiskey safe to drink while on keto diet and does drinking it affect ketosis?

The ketogenic diet is an eating plan that requires high fat and low carbohydrate foods and drinks that can help manage weight and improve overall health. Despite the restrictions, you don't have to give up your favorite whiskey if you are on such a diet as long as you limit your alcohol intake.

Whiskey of one of the distilled liquors that don't contain any carbs, making it okay for the keto diet. However, studies suggest that while drinking a glass of whiskey will not affect ketosis, it can delay your progress, prompting a longer ketosis process.
To counter this, one must drink whiskey in moderation to keep on track of ketosis. When adding mixers, choose low-carb or zero-carb ones like sparkling water.

Conclusion

The next time you're sipping whiskey, you'll already know that it has an insignificant amount of sugar or none at all in its final or bottled state. If you want to be sure, you can check if your whiskey has flavorings or other additives because these can contribute to its sugar content.

If you're concerned about your weight, it is essential to note that whiskey can still make you gain weight because its calorie count is significantly higher than its sugar.

Additionally, you can also limit adding mixers to your whiskey because these are responsible for adding sugars to the liquor. Whether you decide to drink your whiskey neat, with ice, or as mixed drinks—drink in moderation.

It's the only way to enjoy it without feeling guilty about compromising your health.

Did you find this article helpful? What other topics do you want to learn? Leave your comments below!

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