TEXAS — The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has authorized permitted distilleries nationwide to start producing ethanol-based hand sanitizers to address the demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several Central Texas distilleries have joined in, making the switch from their normal routines of creating booze.

  • They’re following WHO and FDA standards
  • Making hand sanitizer helps keep their staff working
  • Hand sanitizer contains alcohol

Tito's Vodka in Austin, Desert Door Distillery in Driftwood, Milan & Greene Whiskey in Blanco, Still Austin Whiskey Co. in Austin, Deep Eddy Vodka in Austin, and Hye Rum in Stonewall are all in on the hand sanitizer game, prioritizing supplies for medical professionals and first responders. Middleton Brewing in San Marcos has created a surface sanitizer concentrate.


Veteran-owned Desert Door Distillery focuses on producing "sotol," a distilled spirit from wild-harvested sotol plants. Desert Door jumped on the hand sanitizer-making train when they first heard about "panic buying" a few weeks ago. Their plan is to prioritize donating the sanitizer to the medical community, first responders, vulnerable populations, and then the local community.

"Our leadership style, our core value system, who we are, started with the military, so we come from a place of service, first and foremost. And we saw what people were doing in terms of hoarding it and trying to sell it at large prices," said co-founder Ryan Campbell. "When we saw the raid on supplies and we started looking at all these other shutdowns that were happening, the idea and the thought process was 'well what can Desert Door do to like participate and help during this whole thing?"

The sanitizer is made according to WHO and FDA standards.

"So I started Googling ‘what are the different recipes for making hand sanitizer.’ We came across this World Health Organization guidance on how to make hand sanitizer out in the field when there's like pandemic outbreaks and things like Ebola and that kind of stuff," Campbell said. "And if you look at the three main ingredients, it's hydrogen peroxide, glycerin, and 80 percent alcohol. We don't make it that high but I knew we had the capabilities of doing that. And then on top of it, you need distilled water, well we've got a giant still so we can make distilled water from it as well."

The staff, who otherwise might have been out of work, is putting in hours creating, bottling and packaging the sanitizer.

"We had to shut our tasting room. Our tasting room does really well. We're one the top tasting rooms in the state. What was great though is, you know, I have a tasting room staff that normally I would have had to send home, and instead I've been able to keep them gainfully employed working on this," Campbell said. "I know it's important at this time that we all stay at home but we're doing something that's providing a public service. And so it's great that my employees are able to come out of here now and actually be proactive and be engaged in this time and it feel like they're doing something, rather than just being a spectator to what's happening in the world."

The distillery has already donated 5,000 bottles to first responders across the state, including Austin Police, University of Texas Police, Cedar Park Police and Hays County Sheriff’s Office. Their goal is to bottle 20,000 to send out and keep the flow going as long as there's a need.

“We're a small business, and we've made a very sizable investment in doing this so we want to be able to keep doing it. So if other corporations want to get along with us and help go on this journey together, we’d be more than happy to have anybody’s support.”

The founders of Desert Door say as veterans, their goal is to be at the forefront of this issue, instead of sitting on the sidelines.

“Our leadership style, our core value system, who we are we are started with the military, so we come from a place of service, first and foremost," Campbell said. “So our whole idea was is ‘yes you could technically sell this’ but now you're kind of capitalizing on a horrible circumstance to profit yourself. And we just think it's much more important to give it out there, to make it easy.”

Desert Door is welcoming donations through a GoFundMe to help create more bottles. They're also encouraging others who are capable to follow suit and switch production to hand sanitizer.   

"We want a whole bunch of other distilleries to get involved and to do this but I think it's really important that we're following those standards so that everybody is able to continue to do it going forward. We are looking for opportunities out there in the community that need hand sanitizer. We don't know where all the needs are, so people can reach out to us and contact us on our website. And we're also looking for other corporate sponsors who want to go through this with us."

If you are a local first responder the best way to reach the distillery is info@desertdoor.com. There will be another community pick-up day soon once the distillery catches up on orders. At this time, the distillery is only able to supply locally and they will not be shipping individual bottles or bulk orders out of the state.