The TMS Guide to Hot Sauces

September 18, 2009 | Comments (0) | by Adam Blank

People are often amazed at the copious amounts of hard liquor I regularly put into my body. "How can you drink that shit?" "Where does your supernatural ability to drink come from?" "Why won't you just die?" These are questions I'm often confronted with. And while I don't have a scientific answer to these questions, I firmly believe my ability to process the myriad of poisons I assault my body with week in & week out stems from my pact with Satan love of hot sauces.

My love affair with hot sauces goes back to when I was 10, a full 4 years before I started drinking. For any fledgling alcoholic, hot sauces are really the place to start. Much like hard liquor, hot sauces have a bad rap for burning a hole in your stomach and warping your brain. I'm here to tell you that these rumors are completely unfounded in the case of hot sauces. With that authoritative stamp of approval, here is The TMS Guide to Hot Sauces...

Tabasco Sauce: The King of hot sauces for over 140 years, Tabasco's reputation is well-deserved. This sauce packs a light heat and a distinct flavor that works great with nearly everything. However, I find it a bit too heavy on the vinegar and therefore a little too sour to make it my primary hot sauce. If you're not a fan of the original, give the Chipotle variety a try. It's much more balanced and doesn't pack the sting of the original.

The other Louisiana Sauces: (Frank's, Crystal, Louisiana "The Original" Hot Sauce) Although they tend to be inexpensive and may seem like fly-by-night operations, these sauces all have long & storied histories rivaling Tabasco. Unfortunately for them, I find the flavor of these brands to be interchangeable. That isn't to say they're bad sauces. On the contrary, these hot sauces are versatile, cheap, fan-friendly, and often pack an unexpected amount of power. Think of them as the Mark DeRosa of hot sauces. Great on everything from asparagus to zucchini, every refrigerator needs a bottle of this to liven up your latest kitchen abomination.

The arbol/piquin sauces: The most popular of these is the wooden-capped Cholula hot sauce. An interesting blend of lesser-known peppers, these sour sauces have a smoky hint that works wonders on pizza, pasta, and other Italian dishes. Even better, it can make anyone believe your dish came straight from Mexico, without a showy case of dysentery.

Dave's Gourmet Sauces: Over-hyped, sometimes over-priced hot sauces. Dave's makes everything from a limited edition Ghost Chile sauce to butternut squash sauce and everything in-between. Sadly, everything I've tried from Dave's has tasted the same; too acidic, too concentrated, too synthetic. Dave has some great ideas, but after trying his sauces, I know how my ex-girlfriends feel: You brace yourself for a breathtaking experience, but it doesn't deliver anything that was promised and what little heat there was only lasts about a minute. In the end it's a disappointing experience you wouldn't recommend to friends.

Sauces made by major liquor brands: You'd think the pairing of hot sauce & alcohol would be the most important merger in my life since my hand & my penis met one fateful night in May of my 13th year... Alas, I'm consistently disappointed in the marriages between hot sauces & liquors. Either I can't taste a hint of hard liquor and I get upset that I spent too much on a bottle of relatively shitty hot sauce, or I can only taste the liquor and get upset that I didn't just shell out for a bottle of the hard stuff. Like a midget hooker, this seems like a dream pairing that ends up being a costly disappointment.

The Ass Sauces: The vast majority of concentrated hot sauces are of the Fart/Ass/Profanity variety. And while I'm not above showing off my ability to tolerate the heat, almost all of these sauces are just for show and don't add any real flavor to a dish. Usually you'll have to cut this with a much weaker sauce to make it tolerable. Some of these sauces even hype their Scoville units on the label to show their potency. But those of us who know hot sauces know that human taste buds cannot decipher between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Scoville units, so this is usually pure hype. If you're trying to win a bar bet, these are the right sauces. If you want to make edible food, fuck this noise.

Sauces that feature occult figures: There are a ton of hot sauces that feature Satan, Lucifer, & Vampires in their monikers. As the resident goth-fag of Thunder Matt's Saloon, I don't object to these sauces on an aesthetic level. But once you get under the surface, these sauces tend to be no different than the Ass Sauces. If you think you might have a chance with a goth chick, keep one in the fridge. If not, avoid these at all costs.

Political Hot Sauces: (Bush & Dick Hot Sauce, Hillary's Diet, Barack Obama Presidential Hot Sauce, Burn in Hell, Osama!): There are lots of fly-by-night hot sauces featuring titles with contemporary political figures and sauces of varying degrees of heat. I have yet to try any of these, but I'm willing to bet that they won't surpass Tabasco in their longevity.

Words to avoid in hot sauces titles: "Ass," "Atomic," "Burning," "Death," "Fart," "Fuckin'," "Insanity."

Words to look for in hot sauce titles: anything with a Spanish accent mark, anything that mentions a city/state/region of Mexico, "lava," "New Mexico," "Very hot," anything that names the actual peppers used.

Pictures to look for on labels of hot sauces: Roosters, Men in sombreros, subtly sexy women, No pictures at all

Pictures to avoid on labels of hot sauces: Satan, Women in Bikinis or less, fire shooting out of an orifice, the sun