Booze Companies Are Pivoting to Hand Sanitizer Production

Good timing.

Washing your hands with booze doesn’t do anything but waste booze, but that doesn’t mean that alcohol companies can’t help get us through the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, a bunch of breweries and distilleries are using their alcohol-producing equipment and expertise to help make up for an international shortage after demand for disinfectant hand gels rose 1,400 percent (!) between December and January.

Tito’s Vodka, which deployed its social media team to disabuse folks of the notion that vodka = Purell, is now using its distilling equipment to produce 24 tons of hand sanitizer that will actually, you know, sanitize your hands.

Pernod Ricard SA, the company that owns brands like Jameson and Absolut, had produced 1,000 gallons of sanitizer at its Fort Smith, Arkansas facility by March 20, a matter of days after two of its employees hatched the idea. Its actions earned the company a shout-out in a presidential news conference.

Diageo, an even bigger international alcohol conglomerate, said it could make two million liters of hand sanitizer in the same facilities that produce Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker, among other brands. That’s enough for eight million sorely needed 250-milliliter bottles

And it’s not just liquor companies stepping up to the plate. Anheuser-Busch is using the excess alcohol removed from its alcohol-free beers to make 50,000 liters of disinfectant alcohol. BrewDog, a multinational chain of breweries and pubs based in Scotland, is making “Brewgel Punk Sanitiser” with 60 percent alcohol, the minimum potency recommended by the CDC.

These are all pretty large companies, but smaller breweries and distilleries, from Boardroom Spirits in Pennsylvania to Ironworks Distillery in Nova Scotia are also contributing to the cause.

And while these companies’ regular products are certainly helping folks endure self-isolation, they deserve a (socially distant) tip of the hat for devoting resources to ensuring people have the hand sanitizer they need to slow the spread of the coronavirus.