With hand sanitizer sold out everywhere, the team behind Republic Restoratives distillery realized they had one of its main ingredients—high-proof alcohol—readily available and in abundant supply. So, they followed the World Health Organization’s guidelines for making the stuff with vegetable glycerine, hydrogen peroxide, and distilled water. Now, they are packaging their own version in two-ounce containers. They’re calling it “hand cleaner,” because “I don’t really know what the FDA thinks about things like this,” says owner Pia Carusone.
For regulatory reasons, the Ivy City distillery can’t actually sell the product. But they will give it away with the purchase of any bottle of vodka, bourbon, rye, or brandy. As one of the only self-distributing spirit producers in DC, Republic Restoratives will also launch its own on-demand, direct-to-consumer delivery service on Monday, March 16. Locals will be able to get alcohol delivered to their front doors within two hours.
“This is a unique time, so we’re not doing the kind of longterm planning we would normally do in getting everything figured out, but we’re like, ‘Fuck it, this needs to happen,'” Carusone says.
Like a lot of businesses, Republic Restoratives is also feeling the effects of the coronavirus crisis. Their Civic Vodka was the official vodka of the Washington Nationals stadium last year, so they’d been prepping for a big order to go out. They also have a lot of accounts with hotels, which are cutting back as convention and tourism business drops off.
“I know people are not going to stop drinking. In fact, maybe it will increase. We just ask that people choose local right now, because it means so much more to us,” Carusone says.
The woman-owned distillery is also rolling out a number of initiatives to help their restaurant and bar colleagues across the city. They’ll offer industry folks a 50-percent discount at their bar as well as on wholesale bottle prices. This week, the distillery will launch online cocktail classes featuring local bartenders that will be streamed from their bar on Facebook or Instagram Live (stay tuned for details). Carusone says they’re looking into ways to charge a small fee or set up a virtual tip jar so bartenders can bring in some extra income.
“We’re facing such an incredibly devastating time ahead that anything we can do to change the dynamic for us and for other members of the DC food and beverage community, we’re doing,” Carusone says.