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Coronavirus pandemic produces the inevitable for Chicago: Malort hand sanitizer

Josh Noel, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Business News

CHICAGO -- Malort, as any good Chicagoan knows, already tastes a bit like hand sanitizer.

And now the coronavirus pandemic has willed it into existence.

Yes -- Malort hand sanitizer is here.

Amid the many Chicago disitilleries making hand sanitizer to fight the spread of COVID-19, CH Distillery announced Tuesday it will donate a Malort brand hand sanitizer to local hospitals and clinics beginning next week in one-liter glass bottles.

The future collector's item sadly won't be available to the public, but if demand stays high, the pandemic persists and there's surplus product, it may be donated more broadly, even to individuals, CH owner Tremaine Atkinson said.

The distillery began making the sanitizer last week, Atkinson said, and didn't deliberate long before choosing to brand it with Chicago's best worst spirit.

"It's serious in the sense that it's real hand sanitizer that will help people," Atkinson said. "But everyone needs a little bit of a laugh and something to make them smile. We know how people feel about Malort, so we figured why not throw the name on."

Atkinson said he plans to make at least 250 bottles of Malort hand sanitizers, but hopes to make as many as 500 and maybe even more, depending on the availability of ingredients.

He wanted to bottle it in smaller bottles to distribute to the public, but there was too much legalese to fit on the label. So they're sticking with the big bottles.

 

Atkinson launched CH in 2013 and bought the Malort brand in 2018 from a woman who had been manufacturing the spirit under contract in Florida. Atkinson moved production to his Pilsen distillery in 2019.

With a history believed to reach back to Prohibition, Malort is a legendary Chicago spirit made with the herb wormwood. It's bitter enough to have popularized the term "Malort face" -- the disgusted scowl that can accompany drinking it, especially for first-timers.

"It's such an iconic Chicago brand," Atkinson said. "Chicagoans should help Chicagoans."

Besides, he said, Malort has the perfect reputation to become a hand sanitizer brand: "The lore of Malort is that it already is hand sanitizer to begin with, so why not?"

(c)2020 Chicago Tribune

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