Local distillery creates free hand sanitizer for the public and first responders amid pandemic

Where there’s a distillery, there’s probably a way to create much-needed hand sanitizer.

Sugarfield Spirits co-owner Andrew Soltau heard about another distillery that was creating hand sanitizer to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. At first, he and his team dismissed the idea at their own distillery from a business standpoint—it’s only been open a few months. But a few days later, they saw a statement from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau asking for help with the hand sanitizer shortage.

So the new Gonzales distillery began developing a hand-rub formula using its own corn whiskey. Soon, they were giving out free bulk orders to Ascension Parish daycares, hospitals and the sheriff’s department.

“We’re trying to get all first responders and hospitals first,” Soltau says. “We want to help everybody.”

Although the virus outbreak has had quite the impact on Sugarfield Spirits’ business, with its bar being closed, the distillery is still able to sell its custom liquors—and give out about five gallons of hand sanitizer per day to the public. From Tuesday to Saturday, noon-6 p.m., patrons can bring their own bottles to collect 8-ounce portions of the hand sanitizer. To ensure everyone’s safety, guests stay in their cars and are called when it is their turn.

Sugarfield Spirits’ hand sanitizer dispenser.

On day one of production, the distillery made three gallons; on day two, it made five gallons. But each day, its hand rub “went very quickly.”

“There were cars everywhere. The police actually came by and did crowd control the first couple of days,” Soltau says. “After that, everybody became really cool in working with us.”

The establishment follows the World Health Organization’s recipe to make its hand rub. The sanitizer is made with 80% alcohol that is denatured and not drinkable, along with hydrogen peroxide and glycerin.

“As essential workers, making hand sanitizer, we’ve been able to continue production here. This is just something we could do,” Soltau says. “Anytime someone has a chance to do something, I think any reasonable person just does it. We’re gonna all get through this.”

Sugarfield Spirits is at 481 W. Eastbank St.