Editor's note: Each week, Gretchen VanEsselstyn of Chile Pepper magazine drops by to drop some Serious Heat.
Here at Chile Pepper magazine, masochism is alive and well. For our annual March "Hot Sauce" issue, we tasted a few hundred hot sauces from makers large and small over a four-week period. We categorized them, wrote up notes, took some photos, and assembled the info into a giant buying guide. And then we checked in with our gastroenterologists.
This year, we took a journey through the alphabet, from A for Asian and African sauces through Z for ZestFest, with stops along the way for categories like Chipotle, Dessert, Garlic, Jerk, Mustard, Texas, and, of course, XXX.
I is for Ideas, and the sauces below think outside the bottle, whether with wacky packaging or innovative flavors.
Dave's Gourmet Adjustable Heat is still the cleverest packaging we've ever seen. Choose your own heat level from warm to really, really hot with a flick of the wrist.
Savannah's Original Screaming Pickle Sauce tastes like pickled jalapeño juice but is even tastier and hotter.
Blair's Sudden Death Sauce with Ginseng--well, ginseng is supposed to help with alertness and mental clarity. One drop of this killer-hot concoction and you'll certainly be alert.
Louisiana Gold Horseradish Pepper Sauce is a bold, fresh-tasting blend that's amazing on oysters or smoked salmon.
Original Juan Pain is Good Jalapeño Harissa is a taste of the Middle East, with fresh herbs and lots of chiles--delicious with hummus or falafel.
Pepper Palace Myrtle Beach South Carolina Ocean Sands has a beautiful, beachy label and is dipped in pearly blue wax--a nice collectible.
Porky's Gourmet Foods Bellycheer Spicy WorcesterFIRE is simply great, hot Worcestershire, and should be stirred into deviled eggs, tuna, or what have you.
Sizzlin Sauces Howlin' Hollar Hot Sauce with Pumpkin is pleasantly sweet and earthy with a powerful kick.
Zack and Zane's Sons of Sam Caffeine Capsaicin Nirvana is made with love, vinegar, coffee and naga jolokia (the world's hottest chile). So darn good.
Tahiti Joe's sauces all use innovative ingredients like dehydrated vegetables, Parmesan cheese, Key lime, and clam juice. Polynesian is sweetish and lip-smacking, while Volcano Ahi X is more savory and Ahi of Kahuna XX is the hottest--and our favorite.
W.O. Hesperus Captain Mowatt's Cocoloco Crazy Coconut has delicious, fresh, hot tropical magic--dare we suggest a splash in your next piña colada?
Keep an eye here on Serious Heat for more sauces--in the meantime, try some for yourself.
[The Hot Sauce issue is available at your local bookstore or newsstand--via subscription at chilepepper.com.]
All products linked here have been independently selected by our editors. We may earn a commission on purchases, as described in our affiliate policy.