October 21, 2021

Distilleries try hand at sanitizer

Companies making product amid shortage caused by coronavirus

S.N. Briere/staff reporter

Tom Whitney, the manager of Riverside Liquor Warehouse in Riverside Plaza in Cortland, puts a case of liquor into the company’s delivery van. The store has sold out of liquor that is 100 proof or higher and isn’t sure when it will get more in stock. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a hand sanitizer of 60% alcohol or higher which would need at least 120 proof alcohol to make.

It’s getting harder and harder to find hand sanitizer.

Much like many other products at grocery stores and pharmacies, hand sanitizer has often been sold out.

But distilleries are getting into the hand sanitizer business. “We pretty much just started at the beginning of the week,” Vic Rutherford, a bartender for the Cortland Beer Co., said Thursday.

The company, located on Court Street in Cortland, officially announced it would donate a limited amount of bulk hand sanitizer to local businesses or institutions.

Rutherford said the brewery and distillery switched over because “demand necessitates and we have the ability to because we have a high proof grain alcohol.”

“As we all continue to battle this pandemic, and for as long as we are able, Cortland Beer Co. will continue to manufacture products to best service the needs of our community,” the release stated.


Bulk sanitizer

The Cortland Beer Co. said to contact it at info@cortlandbeer.com for details on how to get sanitizer.


In Lafayette, Beak & Skiff is making hand sanitizer at its 1911 Established distillery.

“It is our intention to produce as much hand sanitizer as we can to help fulfill the growing need in our local community.

We have a talented team of professional formulators and distillers that are up to the challenge and jumped at the opportunity,”

Eddie Brennan, president Beak & Skiff, said in a release. The company announced on its Facebook page Monday that it will donate sanitizer to first responders and health care workers, although it did not say how much would be donated. The company also said hand sanitizer will be available online for anyone to purchase.

Those purchases can be picked up or shipped anywhere in the state.

“We are working 24/7 to address this critical need in our community,” the post stated.

“One hundred percent of what we can distill in the coming days and weeks will be allocated to this need.”

While distilleries are jumping into the hand sanitizer business, some people have gone out to their local liquor store to get high-proof alcohol to make their own sanitizer.

At the Groton Avenue Liquor Store, manager Mikey Canale said it has been “very busy” and that all the high-proof liquor “is actually all gone.”

But he said the shop has also been selling a lot of other alcohol including boxed wine and the bigger bottles of vodka, whiskey and rum.

Riverside Liquor Warehouse manager Thomas Whitney said they store saw a surge in people buying alcohol after sport affiliations announced they were suspending or postponing games and even seasons due to the virus.

It also sold out of all its high proof alcohol as well. Whitney said he even sold five gallons of Everclear vodka to someone. Everclear bottles at 120, 151, 189 and 190 proof, which can be used to make homemade hand sanitizer because it has enough alcohol percentage.

Owner Joseph Hage said it sold out so fast that he is having a hard time getting more.

“You can’t get it from the distributor, you can’t get it from the manufacturer,” Hage said.

Hage and Canale said the liquor stores will stay open until they are told they can’t anymore.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has established liquor stores as an essential business, meaning they can stay open.