Long Island Distilleries Making Hand Sanitizer To Help Fight Coronavirus

Abby Gruppuso with Better Man Distilling Co.’s new hand sanitizer.

Hand sanitizer remains a hard-to-find necessity two months after the coronavirus pandemic first hit Long Island, but local craft distillers have switched from making booze to cleanser to help flush the scourge.

Fighting COVID-19 with alcohol are Baiting Hollow-based Long Island Spirits, Sagaponack Farm Distillery, Twin Stills Moonshine in Riverhead, Better Man Distilling Co. in Patchogue, and Black Momma Vodka in Wheatley Heights — all of which are now distilling hand sanitizer instead of hooch.

“We have to be ready to shift how we are serving our community and consumers in the midst of this crisis,” said Vanessa Braxton, president and CEO of Black Momma Vodka. “If I didn’t own a distillery and manufacturing facility I would not have been able to pivot so quickly from producing vodka to making hand sanitizer.”

LI’s spirits makers are not alone, with distilleries across New York State and the nation following suit — even Melville-based cosmetics giant Estee Lauder is switching gears to manufacturing hand sanitizer. But as part of the hard-hit hospitality industry, distillers are worried the pandemic may put them out of business.

“Distillers are doing their part to help their communities by converting facilities to make hand sanitizer for first responders, health care workers, and the public,” Spirits United, the advocacy arm of the American Distilli9ng Institute, wrote in a letter to Congress requesting relief for the $180 billion industry’s 1.6 million employees. “However, these local businesses fear they may not be able to survive during this crisis. This would be an incredible loss to the American economy.”

Although hand sanitizer isn’t as fun or lucrative as liquor, the distilleries are taking the new mission seriously. Better Man Distilling shipped its first cases of hand sanitizer to the Patchogue Fire Department and Patchogue Volunteer Ambulance Company.

Abby Gruppuso, the distillery’s head of operations, said, “It’s important to us to get this out into our local community to our friends and neighbors who are on the front lines.” 

Related Story: Some Long Island Companies Thrive in Pandemic Economy

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