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How Everclear Became a Pandemic Favorite

  • July 13, 2020

You know 190-proof Everclear by reputation. The bartender’s equivalent of jet fuel, this high-octane neutral grain spirit is more than twice the strength of standard vodka, and is illegal in 11 states.

It’s been mythologized by generations of fraternity parties and celebrated in song, Art Alexakis, the frontman of the 1990s post-grunge band Everclear, once referred to the liquor as “pure white evil.” Bushwick Bill, the late rapper from the Geto Boys, claimed that he shot himself in the eye in 1991 while plastered on Everclear and PCP.

How strange, then, that this storied party propellant has become a tool against the pandemic.

In an upside-down coronavirus economy where big-ticket indulgences (Caribbean cruises, luxury hotel suites) collapsed in value, and ordinary household items like toilet paper and flour started to trade like Bitcoin, Everclear was suddenly flying off liquor store shelves, as a substitute for drugstore hand sanitizers and other disinfectants.

With the household sanitizer shelves plucked clean, and $7.99 bottles of Purell at one point going for more than $100 on eBay, Everclear represented an ideal D.I.Y. germ-killing alternative, particularly when even standard rubbing alcohol, a key ingredient in many hand sanitizer recipes, was also hard to find.

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