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5 Products With Hidden Alcohol

When recovering from addiction, it’s important to beware of challenges in any form. Stress is a major challenge for most people, as are people, places, and things associated with drugs or alcohol. It’s especially important to watch out for alcohol hidden in surprising places. People recovering from addiction, especially from alcohol use disorder, are often very sensitive to alcohol and even small amounts of alcohol in a product can experience a craving. Therefore, it’s good to know ahead of time what to look out for. The following products may contain alcohol.


Original Listerine is about 27 percent alcohol, which is why it kills germs so effectively. Other mouthwashes are around 20 percent alcohol. There are now alcohol-free mouthwashes, which not only reduce your risk of being tempted but may actually work better. Alcohol dries out the saliva that protects your teeth from decay. It can also kill the healthy bacteria in your mouth. 

Baked goods.

Many ingredients that go into baked goods contain alcohol. Vanilla extract is probably the best known. It’s made by soaking vanilla beans in alcohol, usually rum, vodka, or brandy. Other extracts, such as almond, are also made with alcohol because is good at extracting flavor but has little flavor of its own. Although extracts can have a lot of alcohol, very little actually remains in the finished product. Perhaps a bigger concern is other desserts made with alcohol, such as cherries jubilee, bananas foster, and other flambe desserts, as well as liqueur-filled chocolates, mousse, black forest cake, and fruit cake. 

Sauces and meats.

Many sauces are made with alcohol, including bearnaise, bordelaise, and fondues. Of course, anything with a white or red wine sauce also contains alcohol. Although people tend to say the alcohol boils off, actually quite a bit remains, certainly enough to experience a craving. In addition to sauces, many types of meat are marinated or braised in alcohol and much of that alcohol can remain in the meat after cooking. It’s typically a good idea when eating out to ask your server if anything you’ve ordered is made using alcohol. If they don’t know, they can easily find out. Don’t worry about being a bother; servers are used to answering questions related to food allergies and dietary restrictions. 

Non-alcoholic beer.

This may seem obvious but it bears repeating: non-alcoholic beer still has some alcohol in it. Typically, it has about one-tenth as much alcohol as a regular beer. That’s not much, but you may still taste it. And the flavor of the beer itself may be a challenge, so it’s best just to skip it.

Cold medicines.

Again, most people are aware that cold medicines often have alcohol in them, but when you’re sick, you may be less vigilant. NyQuil is the best known, but many cold and allergy medicines contain alcohol, including Benadryl, Formula 44, Dimetapp, and Robitussin. Although it may be tempting to reach for some cold medicine when you’re feeling awful, it’s good to keep in mind this only treats the symptoms and letting the cold run its course may get it over with sooner.

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