Sure you’ve likely tried a few Tabasco hot sauces in your time. Maybe the famous rooster sauce Sriracha by Huy Fong Foods has a place in your kitchen cabinet (or on your t-shirt). You may have also come across the likes of Cholula and El Yucateco at your supermarket. But there’s a deeper and, some would say, vastly more interesting world of hot sauce brands out there than the ones you most often find.
This is the world of collectable hot sauces and unique flavor combinations – a world often made of fire and brimstone smoldering at the top levels of the Scoville scale. And there’s a few brands that have staked serious claims here. They are less well-known than the big hot sauce brands, but still seriously tasty, unique and downright special. They’re like the craft brewers of the chili world, and here’s five of our favorites that should be on your radar. If you haven’t tried them, now’s the time.
You’ve got to love a quirky start-up story. Dave owned a burrito restaurant near the University of Maryland. He found that drunk college students packed it up for the night a lot faster after they’ve tried super hot sauces. That put him on a mission to make the hottest sauces in town. Skip to years later, and Dave’s Gourmet is one well-respected hot sauce maker, and the brand does a lot more too – from spicy popcorn to Olives of Pain.
Claim to fame: Dave’s Insanity sauce was actually banned from the Fiery Foods show for being too hot. The only product to get this “honor”.
Top Dave’s Gourmet hot sauces: Dave’s Insanity Sauces (Temporary, Total, Ultimate), Scorpion Pepper, Cool Cayenne, and a whole lot more.
Mad Dog Hot Sauces
Mad Dog hot sauces started up in Brighton, Massachusetts. Founder David Ashley, while working at a local restaurant, discovered his desire to create hot sauces that not only delivered heat, but also a ton of flavor. That’s something tough to deliver, but Mad Dog does it very well. The Mad Dog product line has grown to over twenty-eight items, including chili powders and oils.
Claim to fame: Winner of many Scovie Awards for top hot sauces.
Top Mad Dog hot sauces: 357 Mad Dog Silver Collector’s Edition, 357 Mad Dog Plutonium, 357 Mad Dog Scorpion, 357 Mad Dog Pure Ghost.
Blair Lazar, the man behind the sauce, concocted his first hot sauce while bar tending at the Jersey Shore. To this day, Blair’s is still a Jersey company. Blair’s has a full range of hot sauces, from hot to beyond crazy. The brand is very well-known for its high heat Death Hot Sauces and its cool collectable hot sauce packaging. There are some awesome gift selections in the Blair’s line up – especially among his Reserve Collection bottles, with the caveat that they can be downright scolding hot to eat.
Claim to fame: Featured on Discover Channel, The History Channel, and written up in Rolling Stone and the Wall Street Journal.
Top Blair’s hot sauces: Sweet Death, Beyond Death, Sudden Death, Ultra Death, Blair’s 2AM and 3AM Reserve.
Made by the Figueroa Brothers, Melinda’s is one of the most innovative hot sauce brands when it comes to mixing vegetables and fruits into sauce flavors. Their sauce line ranges from mild to decently hot, but Melinda’s creative use of ingredients often tempers the total heat. Because of that, Melinda’s is definitely the most family friendly hot sauces of the bunch. They also make a really tasty line of spicy ketchups that are awesome for burgers.
Claim to fame: One of the first (if not the first) to bring habanero hot sauces to the mainstream market.
Top Melinda’s hot sauces: Mango Habanero, Scotch Bonnet, XXXReserve Habanero, Original Jalapeño.
Da Bomb is a bit infamous due to some high press pranks involving this scorching hot sauce. This is a high heat, take no prisoners hot sauce brand. Really, the lowest heat hot pepper involved is the habanero, so expect insanity on the tongue. These are some of the more collectable hot sauce bottles out there, though. Da Bomb has great names and smart packaging to really have them stand out among a collection. The bottles look like old school bomber bombs. And the names all play on the theme, including the wicked cool hot Da Bomb hot sauce set, Nuclear Proliferation.
Claim to fame: Infamous prank that made national news – a high school kid who spiked his school’s spaghetti lunch with Da Bomb.
Top Da Bomb hot sauces: Beyond Insanity, Ground Zero, The Final Answer, Nuclear Proliferation hot sauce set.