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From Cocktails to Cleansers: Distillery Pivots to Pandemic Preparedness

From Cocktails to Cleansers: Distillery Pivots to Pandemic Preparedness

Due to a variety of reasons, North America has ended up behind the eight ball in terms of our protective response to COVID-19. In particular, my heart goes out to my home state of Michigan, as well as other U.S. states scrambling to take care of their own. Where there is a silver lining to be found, it’s in stories of a courageous population reaching unheard-of levels of resourcefulness in battling this virus!
 
As a small business owner, I was amazed at the big heart and production line dexterity I read about at Dirty Water Distillery, an artisanal Massachusetts liquor producer. In the early days of the pandemic, when a hand sanitizer shortage was reportedly their area, they realized the ability to make up some of the shortfalls was easily in their grasp. So they suspended production of drinkable alcohol (like their delicious-sounding local cranberry gin ), and quickly pivoted to cleanser alcohol instead, using a recipe the owner’s wife sourced from the WHO website. 
 
“If Dirty Water had the necessary facilities, they had credentials in spades, too: [owner Pepi] Avizonis has a Ph.D. in physics, and his head distiller, Brenton MacKechnie, has a degree in chemistry.

Aside from ethanol and distilled water, both available in droves at the distillery already, the recipe called for glycerol and hydrogen peroxide, easily procured ingredients. After their first five-gallon test batch came out well, Avizonis and MacKechnie jumped to a 40-gallon batch the next day. In two weeks, the distillery has produced and distributed about 200 gallons of hand sanitizer, and they’re just getting started.”
 
Local emergency services and hospitals have been using Dirty Water hand sanitizer by the barrel, and the taproom has been open for members of the public to come in and refill their own personal bottles. In a perfect world, we’ll look forward to the day when we can enjoy a simple cocktail again (I daresay maybe on a patio? With other people??). Until then, while it is very much a problem that government support isn’t there for many populations, I’m thrilled to see individual citizens using their unique strengths to help others. That is the literal foundation of civilization — and as long as we have that, we will ultimately make it.