Cornell aiding distillers across New York in producing hand sanitizer


CAZENOVIA, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — As distilleries across New York switch from producing spirits to much-needed hand sanitizer rather than re-inventing the wheel each time, researchers at Cornell University are helping create a standardized recipe for success.

“Hand sanitizer is actually not that different from vodka or maybe from gin, so for distillers to make the switch isn’t too difficult,” said Chris Gerling, a senior extension associate at Cornell University.

Gerling has been working with distillers like “Five & 20” in Western New York and “Black Button Distilling” in Rochester make a difference during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s really been a two-way street,” Gerling said.

“People have been helping us as much as we’ve been helping them. There are some distilleries who got in on this very early and they’ve got advice and experience and we’re just passing that information on.”

And ultimately helping smaller distilleries like “Madison County Distillery” in Cazenovia lend their own hand.

“When the crisis broke out of course there was a shortage of hand sanitizer. We realized that we could make some and our first instinct was to help those first responders,” said Mike Basla, co-owner of “Madison County Distillery.”

Basla’s operation is just getting underway but soon he’ll be supplying the Cazenovia Police Department with his hand sanitizer; depending on supplies the fire department and others on the frontlines could follow.

A GoFundMe page for Madison County Distillery’s mission to supply first responders has already raised more than $2,500.

“We figured we’d need 1,200 pounds of sugar to do a 600-gallon mash, which will result in 200 gallons of ethanol and that’s kind of what our goal is right now,” Basla said.

While Basla admits the switch hasn’t been easy and supplies are in high demand he knows whatever the amount produced will be appreciated.

“We wanted to find a way to support our local community and in this time of crisis is there a better way than supporting our first responders?”

More information about Cornell’s Distillery Aid program can be found on their website.

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