The Hot Sauce Gift Guide
Nothing tastes as good as hot sauce feels. Here are many makers making hot sauce that will make your favorite person smile.
Carrot Chile Sauce // Tango // Brooklyn, NY
Carrots get no love. As the can of spinach needs its Popeye, carrots get their Bugs, animated incentive for kids to munch. (Let no one mention the baby carrot, those shorn and cutesy lap dogs of the veggie world.) But picky eaters don’t know what they’re missing. With a little spice, the tuber turns transcendent — what’s up doc is the heat level. We love those pickled escabeche cups tossed on taco plates, and most trucks worth their masa have ’em. We wish they had this sauce too. Here, carrots give more than crunch and color, but become a perfect vehicle for the extra spice, adding a nice, creamy body to an already perfect hot sauce. Drizzle it on tacos, grilled shrimp, or seared chicken, and eat your vegetables.
Hatchup Katchup // Hatchup // Santa Fe, NM
We’ve all seen that picky kid at breakfast, slumped in the diner booth and only poking at his scrambled eggs until he can drown them in the salving balm of ketchup. (Some of us have even been that kid.) And yeah, his overindulgence in the bright red syrupy sauce is a little juvenile — but young palates can have a point. A vinegary, sweet-sour tang is just the thing to wake up morning taste buds. But we’ve grown up, and our ketchup has evolved too. Here’s the update: naturally sweetened (no corn syrups here) and spiced with hand-picked green chilies from Hatch, New Mexico.
Weak Knees Gochujang Sriracha // Bushwick Kitchen // Brooklyn, NY
You squeeze it on eggs, you mix it with ketchup, you drizzle it on a peanut butter sandwich (trust us) — you know it, you love it, but you’ve never had the Rooster quite like this. Sriracha’s salty sour tang is a match made in umami heaven (puzzle no more over the PB&S hack), which is why it goes so well with funky fermented gochujang, the Korean sauce, staple of every banchan spread. It plays the rich, fermented bass note to the zippy highs of the hot sauce’s vinegary spice. Spoon, splash, and squeeze as you like — or tie on an apron and whip up this steak: marinate a couple pounds in brown sugar, soy, and garlic, sear fast, and serve naked, with a bowl of hot sauce and plenty of cooling toppings like onions, cucumber, radish, and cilantro.
Blue Agave Sriracha // Yellowbird // Austin, TX
Bad hot sauce is good for little else than masking bland burgers or, if your tastes run masochistic, stripping paint. You either drench, or use a single drop. Good hot sauce, though, is transcendent. It heightens instead of hurts: Its spice sharpens senses, so flavor burns all the brighter. Hellish heat can feel like heaven too. Just think of the sizzle of sitting a little too close to the campfire on a cold night. And that’s Yellowbird. Perfect anywhere, mind-blowing on a BLT: Drizzle on the pork before you bake (350 for 15 minutes), top with veggies, serve on crusty bread, and take comfort in the flame.
Maple Sriracha Verde // Vermont Maple Sriracha // Pittsford, VT
What’s a green mountain sriracha fan to do when he gets sick — literally — of the sulfites and preservatives in his favorite sauce? What any good Vermonter does: ask the neighbors. And like any good Vermonters, his neighbors make syrup. Thus was born this curious sauce, a mix of peppers, spices, and real maple syrup (the verde uses jalapeños, not red fresnos, for a citrusy bite and a bit more heat). Diehards may replace their pancake toppings, but we prefer it in a chicken satay: skewer cubed thigh meat on bamboo sticks, oil, and grill, then brush with a blend of Maple Sriracha and good fresh butter.
Bourbon Barrel Aged Verde Hot Sauce // Red Clay Hot Sauce // Charleston, SC
Tired of the vinegary, over-salted stuff he could find at the store, chef Geoff Rhyne started making his own hot sauce in the back of his restaurants. Tired of his diners swiping bottles to take back home, he started selling it. Cold-pressed for the freshest flavor, and aged in barrels for a sweet boozy smoothness, our favorite is the verde: bright and biting with apple, fennel, cilantro, and serrano heat. Mixed with mayo and slapped on a baguette, it makes a perfect sautéed shrimp po’ boy. Bring a bottle to your next dinner party — and watch out for sticky fingers.
Filfil Garlic Sauce // Filfil Foods // Brooklyn, NY
Based on a North-African staple called filfel chuma, what began as a secret family recipe in Filfil Foods founder’s private pantry can now drench your own home cooking in piquant, pungent goodness: a smoky, spicy, and — of course — garlicky blend of paprika, garlic, oils, and spices. If your make-out partner blanches as you ladle it on (and trust us, you’ll be using your largest scooping spoon), you can woo them back with garlic’s heart-healthy bonafides like lowering blood pressure and cholesterol — or just offer a taste.
Srirachup // Sosu Sauces // Oakland, CA
Asian-inspired, American-made — just the cultural mash-up to link ketchup’s roots to the modern table (the sauce was, originally, Chinese, according to foodie lore). But how far the noble spread has fallen: ketchup and sriracha too, all red-dyed and plastic-clad. Not here. California-grown Early Girls, slow cooked for two hours and hand-mixed with spices for a complex flavor that shines best simply: eggs, bacon, bread, and a hefty drizzle.
A&B Pepper Sauce // A&B American Style // Brooklyn, NY
There’s a hot sauce arms race on, and your local supermarket condiments aisle can feel like a bio-war munitions lab. Bottles come with warnings — better fit for stripping paint and clearing drains; just reading the labels makes our eyes water. But not A&B’s. They don’t call it hot sauce, because it’s not about the heat, it’s about the flavor: Fresnos, carrots, onions, vinegar, and salt. Forget your Ghost Peppers and Carolina Reapers — Fresnos are perfect for sauce, a bit spicier than jalapeños, but with tons more citrusy, fruity flavor. Finally, a hot sauce fit for civilians.
Habanero Sauce // Yellowbird // Austin, TX
Some hot sauces are pure white heat, nothing but burn. Save those scoville-spiked scorchers for bar bets and paint stripping. This is a salsa worth savoring. Instead of high-octane peppers like the infamous ghost chile, this Austin-made hot sauce uses the humbler habanero, amping up its bright fruity undertones with an additional spritz of tangerine and lime juice — and its color with a blend of carrots. It’s perfect on tacos, but mellow enough for a michelada.
Thai Chili Sauce // Apinya // Herndon, VA
Finding authentic Thai in Virginia sounds about as easy as trying to find authentic Southern Food in Bangkok, but since Adam Ross began bottling his wife Apinya’s homemade sauces (she learned them from working at her mother’s restaurant in Khon Kaen) the duo has made Herndon, VA an unlikely home for the bright, tangy flavours of the Kingdom. Apinya celebrates the workhorse of SE Asian eats, the fiery, fragrant, thick-fleshed bird’s eye chili, adding just enough ginger and garlic to have you hitting this bottle early and often. Revamp your game-day wing recipe with a basket of sticky, sweet Thai Chili Wings (Mantry.com/recipes).
Dragon’s Blood Elixir // Dragon’s Blood Elixir // Woodstock, Connecticut
Historically traded as potions to “cure one’s ills and prolong life” elixirs were all the rage for pioneers of the past. Although sauce boss Doug can’t confirm life altering health benefits, his concoction of of connecticut apples and habaneros is a cure-all for flavorless foods. Details Magazine even called it one of the “Best Undiscovered Hot Sauces in America”. For the big game, try benching Frank’s and mixing Dragon’s blood with a knob of melted butter to coat some wings (recipe: Mantry.com).
NW Elixir // Verde Hott // Portland, OR
Toss on a blindfold and walk the streets of Mexico City and you’ll find a life altering taco faster than a peeking cheater can hit a piñata at a birthday party. Part of the reason is properly made Salsa Verde. This revelation of roasted tomatillos, fiery serranos and fresh cilantro is traditionally mashed up in a molcajete (a mortar and pestle made of volcanic rock) and is a staple at most street carts south of the border. Up in Portland, Chef Andrew Garrett took a swing at replicating the stuff and has since cornered the market on mind blowing US of A Verde.
Sweet Potato Habanero Sauce // Cochon // New Orleans, LA
Chefs Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski have dotted the Louisiana dining scene such that you can eat your way through NOLA and never visit a joint not run by them. Tuck into gumbo at Herbsaint and crawfish pie at Cochon or hunker down over housemade charcuterie and some of the best sandwiches in the south at the neighboring Cochon Butcher. Use this unique sweet potato heat to bring a lil’ bayou to your Blackberry Farm Fried Chicken or wake up a plate of eggs.
Clancy’s Fancy // Ann Arbour, Michigan
Pie-eyed Delta Phi Polo Poppers have had the pleasure of dousing Clancy’s Fancy on grease laden goodness since 1979. Hailing from within a beer pong shot of the Big House in Ann Arbour Michigan, it’s time to blow the top off one of the best undiscovered sauces in America. Clancy concocted the sauce out of desperation while at international boarding school in Ireland. She was forced to sneak exotic spices from her Asian, African and Central American classmates to liven up the Irish fare that had less bells and whistles than a Sinead O’connor Video. In true Ann Arbor fashion, use liberally on a plate of eggs or in a bowl of guac.
You might like Mantry because we send hot sauce.