This legendary Polish liquor will leave germs (and you) woozy

It’s one of the strongest liquors on shelves -- and people think it will kill practically anything.


April 24, 2020

Move over, Purell: The hottest hand sanitizer on the New York City market is a Polish liquor called Spirytus Rektyfikowany.

At 96% alcohol by volume, the spirit is one of the strongest liquors on store shelves in the world.

Some manufacturers package it with a “flammable” warning. One review found by The Wall Street Journal called it “death in a bottle with a hellish burning aftertaste.”

The signature burn will leave you Rekt, and it may kill just about anything: At the end of February, spirytus sold out in Japan as fears about COVID-19 mounted.

Now shops in Greenpoint — a historically Polish neighborhood in Brooklyn — are selling 1.2k bottles every 2 weeks.

A Cold War staple gets the blockbuster treatment

Once upon a time, spirytus was big among the subset of drinkers who have ever taken a sip of absinthe and thought, “This could use a little more ethanol.”

In Communist-era Poland, people hoarded it to cheaply distill into vodka or to mix with carnation oil in order to ward off mosquitoes. Had a cold? You’d take a little spirytus.

Now it’s all up in your hand sanitizers. Across the world, eye drops, perfume, and vodka manufacturers have pivoted toward making hand sanitizers — and they’re relying on spirits with more than 60% ethanol.

But for the DIY crowd, spirytus is an intoxicating at-home brew

Spirytus hand sanitizers are easy to make, according to Elwira Ogórkiewicz, who is offering Facebook tutorials. A good sanitizer is three parts spirytus and one part aloe gel, she said.

But Ogórkiewicz told the Journal that spirytus has one fragrant flaw. Even after adding in some lavender fragrances, she admitted, “It smells a bit like alcohol.”

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