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Bronx Distillery Makes Hand Sanitizer

Port Morris Distillery employee holds a box of hand sanitizer. Credit: Port Morris Distillery

Port Morris Distillery employee holds a box of hand sanitizer. Credit: Port Morris Distillery

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Normally the tasting room and bar area at Port Morris Distillery in the SouthWest Bronx are filled with people. A band might play on one side of the room or a DJ on the other.  But the main draw is the distillery’s array of Puerto Rican Moonshine called Pitorro. As founder and owner of Port Morris Distillery, William Valentin says the process of making Pitorro differs from other liquors. It’s all about the flavors - Habanero, Coquito, honey, ginger and passion fruit among others.

For our fermentation process, we use whatever fruits are in season at that time in Puerto Rico. Then after the fermentation process is done, we do the distillation process. And after the distilling process most of us who know pitorro use it and infuse it with fruits.

For now though, the tasting room is empty of customers and filled with big jugs, bottles and cardboard boxes. In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic the small business pivoted to making hand sanitizer.

“The funny thing is we didn’t change the distilling process. It’s another form of blending so were using the same form of distillation and at the end instead of blending for flavors were blending for hand sanitizer so adding different ingredient to our ethanol."

Valentin and his partner Ralph Barbosa saw a big need for hand sanitizer in the Bronx community. So they started making the stuff both to sell and to donate as soon as the government gave them the OK. 

“We’ve already donated to the police department. To a lot of police departments. Fire department. We’ve donated to several hospitals”

Even with pickup business and shipping of their hand sanitizer and alcohol within New York State, like many other small businesses Port Morris Distillery is struggling. They had to layoff 15 employees when New York shut down and Valentin doesn’t know what the future holds

“If they change the laws and they work with small business like my business and we’re able to ship directly to other states that means our reach will be longer and that might give us a way to stay alive for a longer time.”

For now the business is relying on family to help fill bottles of hand sanitizer, package boxes and prep orders. Most of the Pitorro they’ve been selling comes from what they had stored before the pandemic.