My lips still burn from this weekend’s Fifth Annual NYC Hot Sauce Festival. Lee Chernowetz, some friends and I experienced first hand what hot sauce really means at an event with over 50 different hot sauce vendors and things related to the all holy chili pepper.
This was my first hot sauce expo, but Lee was at one a previous year and mentioned that there were a lot more people this time around. It looks like there is a growing interest in hot sauce in NYC and rightfully so. There’s nothing like the endorphin rush of trying a burning hot chili sauce, an acquired taste of course but certainly makes you feel alive.
When we first entered the Expo we were greeted by long lines, it looked like arriving at 2pm was right at hot sauce prime time. Regardless, we were able to score our first drink of the day and that was a spicy Bloody Mary. As some may know I am not a big Bloody Mary fan, and it being a mix you would have thought I would have hated it. The Murph’s Bloody Mary Mix was pleasantly good and mixed with the Stoli Hot Jalapeño Vodka, I actually enjoyed it; spicy, cooling, and invigorating all at once, I was ready to take on the hot sauces of the day. First stop, Queen Majesty Hot Sauce of Brooklyn.
Queen Majesty Hot Sauce Brooklyn, NY
These sauces were not super spicy, and that was welcomed as a warm up to the hot sauces of the day but they were excellent. We tried their Hot Sauce Trinity: Jalapeño Tequila Lime, Scotch Bonnet & Ginger, and Red Habanero & Black Coffee.
The Red Habanero with Coffee was my favorite, a great balance of spice and a little bitterness from the coffee. It would be perfect as an accompaniment to a red sauce enchilada or smoky ribs to give it that extra something.
Lucky Dog Hayward, CA
The gentleman behind the counter had some energy because I think we tried over eight hot sauces in a span of one minute. I even got a little mystery squirt of hot sauce in my Bloody Mary and it was excellent. The most notable of these sauces was their Brown Label, a combo of mustard and chipotle and their extra hot Black Label which was what I think was squirted in my drink. Black Label is made with the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper, which is among the hottest in the world. At this point I was starting to feel the pain but we wanted more!
Angry Irishman Hot sauce Woodville, OH
I never would have thought to pair Irish Heritage with hot sauce making but they did something right with these sauces. Most notable were their hot mustards: honey and chipotle. All were excellent and the perfect balance of heat and a nice mustardy base. We also got to try their hottest sauce and that was Why?? sauce, made with Bhut Jolikia, Trinidad Scorpion & Carolina Reaper. After tasting a small drop, I could immediately tell this was going to be a hot one, but after a minute or two the pain grew and peaked around three or four minutes.
It was time for us to surrender and cool down with some milk. Thankfully Farmland Fresh Dairies was there giving out free milk with whipped cream, they were the heroes of the day.
Voodoo Chile Sauces Leesburg, VA
Beer, bacon, and hot sauce, need I say more? These guys were awesome, their philosophy is to make hot sauces you would want to come back to regularly. The last thing they want is for you to buy the hot sauce and for it to go to waste and accumilate dust on your shelf. I have to agree with them on that, most of these sauces were unique and flavorful and would be a great accompaniment to plenty of recipes.
Their bacon sauces would go great with eggs of course, but anything you want to add a bacon smoky flavor to, these are a good go-to. Their bacon taco was described by the awesome guy behind the counter as “Taco Tuesday in a bottle” and he was right.
The beer sauces were some next level stuff, I’m talking the most complex of hot sauces. They have collaborated with Boston Beer Company and Flying dog, which even included the awesome artwork by Ralph Steadman. These were all excellent, the most notable to me was Bloodline, w/ Flying Dog. You get the blood orange taste and hoppy finish with a nice mellow burn. This will have to be a buy for me. They recommend trying these sauces with a good beer to bring out the beer flavors within the sauce.
With all these semi-extreme sauces they have to have a flagship extreme and that would be Delirium, not to be confused with Delirium beer, although we might see some collaboration with them soon. When I first got a taste of this sauce, it exploded with flavor but I quickly learned the peak of this sauce wasn’t until five minutes later and it hurt and kept hurting for a good five minutes after. This sauce is considered by some as the hottest all natural sauce ever, and just having a 1/4 teaspoon worth of this stuff I can totally see what they were talking about. The name is appropriate because I felt a little delirious after eating this; euphoric and all I could think about was the pain. I grabbed a semi warm milk carton from Lee’s pocket, yes it hurt that much.
Hell Fire Lake Geneva, WI
The name was appropriate for this company. They had the hottest sauce out of all the sauces I personally tried at this Expo and that was Fear This! Immediately after trying this sauce my mouth erupted into fire, but then I realized this was just the beginning. About two or three minutes in, it peaked and the pain was so great I didn’t know what to do with myself. I would say a level ten of pain. I had the urge to pound the wall until the pain subsided but I toughed it out, not sure if I would want to experience it again, oh hell what am I saying, of course I would.
The Fifth Annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo was a great fiery experience and I would love to do it again next year. Next year I think I will come a little earlier to beat the crowds and make a day of it in Brooklyn, there are a lot of great breweries and restaurants in the area. The pain was great, but what’s that saying again? No pain, no gain.