Since the COVID-19 outbreak has depleted the country’s supply of hand sanitizer, distilleries across the country have chipped in to help health care workers in need of clean hands. Now, Chicago’s CH Distillery has joined in the fray. Starting next week, it will donate bottles of hand sanitizer to hospitals, clinics, and blood donation centers that bear a familiar brand: Jeppson’s Malört.
Malört is a polarizing drink that conjures up fear. It’s goes down easy enough, but fans and haters separate once the aftertaste takes hold. “The community is what buys our products, so it’s just natural to want to give back,” CH Distillery owner Tremaine Atkinson told Eater Chicago about its plans to produce Malört-branded sanitizer for the medical community. “As soon as we thought of this, we said we definitely want to donate it,” Atkinson said. “We don’t want a dime.”
CH will start by producing a run of between 250 and 500 bottles of sanitizer, as the Tribune first reported. In addition to a miniaturized Malört label wrapped around the neck, which describes the bitter liquor as “savored by two-fisted drinkers,” the bottles will be marked with required legal fine print for hand sanitizer. The new label now reads “two-fisted clean” with a warning to “do not drink.”
Atkinson said CH Distillery will continue to make hand sanitizer throughout the pandemic as long as the company can find the right ingredients and that there’s a need. Eventually, CH may find ways to offer the bottles to the general public, though that’s not the plan to start. “The danger in putting the Malört name on it was it’s going to make people crazy and want it,” Atkinson said.
CH is taking requests for sanitizers from local health care providers. When CH Distillery bought the brand in 2018, Atkinson brought production of Jeppson’s Malört back to Chicago. Likewise, he wants to keep donation local, sending bottles to the clinics and hospitals that need them the most. Atkinson mentioned the nationwide blood shortage at donation centers, and said he wanted to help them. The sanitizer won’t be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Locally, Koval and Chicago distilleries are among those who are using their facilities and expertise with high-proof alcohol to make hand sanitizer.