Port Morris Distillery switches to making hand sanitizer for the community

Port Morris Distillery co-owner Rafael Barbosa making hand sanitizer
Photo courtesy of Port Morris Distillery

For a decade, the Port Morris Distillery has provided alcohol for the community. But when COVID-19 arrived, it transitioned to creating a different product.

Located at 780 E. 133rd St., it was founded in 2010 by Rafael Barbosa and William Valentin. The two distill a specialty spirit, Pitorro, a Puerto Rican Moonshine native to the island of Puerto Rico.

Valentin told the Bronx Times that when the governor told non-essential businesses to close, he and Barbosa agreed they should shutter.

“Like everyone, we were afraid of what the virus could do to us or our employees,” he explained. We didn’t want to put anyone at risk.”

However, the duo soon realized they could stay open and help the community. They decided to make hand sanitizer, which involves ethanol, glycerin and peroxide. The distillery has ethanol and they purchased the other chemicals in bulk.


With a full staff and all hands on deck, they began producing the sanitizer two weeks ago. It has been selling like hotcakes and in total, they have distributed about 4,000 gallons of the product.

Companies have bought it and individuals can purchase it on their website.

“Any time you’re able to make money and help other people, it’s always a good feeling,” he said. “If someone had told me I would be doing this I would have told them they’re crazy.”

Valentin said he is grateful the distillery is open. They are filling up delivery trucks every day and making sanitizer nonstop.

“Not only are we able to survive the storm we’ve been hit with, but a lot of people are not going to be able to get out of this storm,” he said. “It’s a blessing in disguise.”

Valentin noted that they did not receive money from the city or federal government and was shocked that only 1 percent of the small businesses in the Bronx got financial help from the city.

People are struggling and things may not get better for a while, he said.

“A lot of business owners are hurting right now,” he explained. “They’re not going to open back up. I don’t know where the money is going, but it’s definitely not going to the south Bronx.”

More from Around NYC