While the headlines are full of alarming news about COVID-19 (aka coronavirus), consumers are panic-shopping and causing mass shortages of hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol and other cleaning products. Now, a few distilleries aim to help address these needs within their communities.
Durham, NC-based Durham Distillery, which makes Conniption Gin (and is minority-owned by Constellation Brands), received approval late Thursday from the government agency that oversees alcohol laws in the control state to distribute an ethanol-based “Sanitizing Solution” to bars and restaurants in North Carolina’s Research Triangle.
The Sanitizing Solution is made from the same 95% alcohol-by-volume (abv) corn-based ethanol Durham uses for its gin, diluted to a ratio of 70% ethanol to distilled water, about the same level as rubbing alcohol. (By comparison, their Navy Strength Gin is bottled at 57% abv, and their American Dry Gin at 44% abv.) The spray is not flavored with juniper and it’s not a hand sanitizer; it’s intended to spray tabletops and other high-touch areas, effectively killing microbes.
The idea began earlier this month, when Melissa Green Katrincic, owner/president/CEO of Durham Distillery, and co-founder/head distiller Lee Katrincic were out at local cocktail bar and restaurant Alley 26. They realized how many surfaces needed to be wiped down in bars and restaurants at the end of each night, and that supplies for doing so were limited.
“We just realized [COVID-19] is gaining momentum, and there needs to be help in the community to tamp it down,” says Melissa Katrincic. “We had the resources, and most people don’t. It’s not available in most areas, unless there’s a distillery.”
The solution will be available, free of charge, in two-liter measures (about a two-week supply) to all local hospitality operations who come to the distillery to pick it up.
“This is giving back to the people who supported us,” she says. “We are an on-premise brand in these establishments. We can’t leave them hanging without help.”
Similarly, Brooklyn’s New York Distilling is turning the base of its Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin into hand sanitizer, mixing two parts uncut gin (about 85% abv) with one part aloe vera gel. Since it’s made from actual gin, it’s scented with juniper berries, citrus peels and spices.
“I’m using it myself, it’s a lovely aroma,” says New York Distilling founder Allen Katz. The hand sanitizer isn’t available for sale, but will be offered to selected bars, restaurants and retailers that have existing relationships with New York Distilling.
“Right now, it’s a little scary,” says Katz. “We thought, well, at least this is a reasonable way to put ourselves to some use.”
The distillery will start making the sanitizer “in bulk” over the weekend, although Katz is quick to note the product “is not approved by the USDA, it’s a home remedy based on CDC recommendations.”
Amass distillery in Los Angeles is manufacturing an “Alcohol-Based Botanic Hand Wash” using similar botanicals to its gin, such as cinnamon, clove and eucalyptus. Master Distiller Morgan McLachlan “was feeling vulnerable,” a company spokesperson says. “She is pregnant with her first child and noticed hand sanitizer was sold out nearly everywhere.”
After creating sanitizer for herself and coworkers, and posting it on Instagram, she received an influx of orders and put the handwash on sale. Pre-orders for a travel-size ($10 for 2 oz) and a full-size ($38 for 16 oz) are 50% sold out at press time.
Meanwhile, Shine Distillery & Grill, a restaurant and spirits producer in North Portland, OR, is offering a hand sanitizer-like product based on distillate thickened with xanthan gum. It’s not made from their bottled spirit, but from a part of the distillation run that’s normally discarded, Shine’s representatives say. The product is not for sale, but is being given to customers upon request.
Y Psychopomp Microdistillery, a craft distillery in Bristol, England, has been experimenting with combining gin ingredients (65% ethanol and selected botanicals) with aloe vera gel. In addition to supplying the sanitizer to staff, they have made it available to local residents in exchange for a suggested donation to help benefit the community.