The 6th annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo took place in Greenpoint this past weekend and a mass of local spiceheads came out to try the best hot sauces, both locally, and from around the world. Both days were jam packed with events, from the "Screaming Mi Mi Awards", to spicy eating challenges, to a cocktail competition, and even a chihuahua beauty pageant! Vendors provided samples of all sauces, ranging from the mildest BBQ sauce to the spiciest ghost pepper sauces money can buy!
Viewing NYC was invited to check out the expo, so of course we scoped out all local New York City hot sauce vendors and gave them a try. Note that we do include ourselves in the aforementioned spicehead group, so naturally, we had to try the spiciest sauces each vendor had to offer. Here's what we thought…
Hell's Kitchen Hot Sauce
Hell's Kitchen Hot Sauce is made locally in Queens and sold in a Columbus Circle storefront, hot sauce shops, and online. Owner Ron Menin—a.k.a "Chilipepper Jesus"—was super excited to tell us all about each sauce they offer, and gave us samples to try along with each of their origin stories.
Starting with the mild "Retro Jalapeno" sauce, all the way up to the spiciest "Lucille", each sauce was distinctly unique in their flavor, combining all natural ingredients such as fresh blueberries, maple syrup, roasted garlic, clover honey, agave, red raspberries, to create well-balanced hot sauce with an emphasis on flavor over heat. That's not to say these sauces weren't spicy, because a couple of them nearly melted our faces off!
Our favorite was the Cinnamon Ghost Punch, a cleverly named sauce inspired by Menin's childhood eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal while playing Mike Tyson's Knockout on Nintendo in his mom's basement. The sauce is uniquely sweet, with agave and cinnamon taking front stage and center, but also with a slow-burning kick coming from the Ghost Pepper, Habanero, Trinidad Scorpion blend.
A unique blend of hand selected superhot peppers with overtones of savory cinnamon goodness. Deliciously unique…Blazingly craveable! Enjoy with caution…The heat will haunt you!!
Purple Pam Hot Sauce
Purple Pam Hot Sauce is made locally in Brooklyn and sold at sauce shops and online. Started by energetic and titular founder "Purple Pam", a local musician and actress, the company produces two sauces which were quite good.
The Toxie's Elixer is a bright green sauce made with jalapeno and ghost peppers, along with tomatillos, onions, garlic, and other standard ingredients. This sauce was more heat than flavor, but was still quite manageable for everyday use.
The better of the two sauces was her Kiss of Death sauce, the original one she started the company with. Getting heat from a habanero and jalapeno blend, the sauce has an excellent flavor stemming from a heavy tomato base. She described it as "marinara sauce with a nice kick." It would be a great addition to any Italian dish where you wanted to take up the spice level a notch, in a bloody mary's and other drinks, or even on eggs.
This Habanero / Jalapeno sauce starts with a semi-sweet savory kiss of flavor and finishes with a slug of hot death! Perfect for all foods & makes everyday a good day to die.
World Famous Hot Sauce
World Famous Hot Sauce is hot sauce made locally by husband and wife team who have a love for food, flavor and spice. The company's goal is to create dynamic, balanced and flavorful hot sauces to please every palate.
Their Black Eye sauce is made from Scotch Bonnet peppers, mustard, and a variety of fresh, all natural ingredients. Created as a tribute to the owner's late French Bulldog "Daphne", a portion of the sauce's annual sales are donated to a French Bulldog Organization under her name. Packing a medium heat, this sauce gets its unique color and flavor from the mustard. It would be perfect for adding heat to just about any application where you would use mustard, from burgers and hot dogs, to baked chicken, or pretzels.
The L.B.I Love Potion is their most well-known sauce, a garlic-heavy sauce using habanero for medium heat, and other dried veggies and spices to provide flavor. While this classic recipe was great, we thought the newer Black Eye sauce took the win.
Cantina Royal is actually a restaurant started by Executive Chef Julio MM that brings the flavors of traditional Mexico City cantinas to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Seeing as they create these sauces for use in their restaurant, they are more flavorful than hot, with most of them very approachable for almost anybody.
Their Tamaulipeka sauce is a vinegar-based sweet tamarind and smoky chile hot sauce which uses anchovies and other spices to round out the flavor. With medium-level heat, a sweet, sour, smoky and salty spiciness, this sauce is good to use directly on meats or as a marinade. They also serve up a medium Tia Piky Lux sauce that is made with smoked garlic and arbol chile in an oil-based dip. You can add the oild to just about anything to get that heat, or stir it up and get all the flavor soaking at the bottom of the jar.
Our favorite was the Tomasa, a spicy manzano and habanero oil-based sauce. There is an intense and complex smokiness to this sauce, providing a ton of flavor while also packing a ton of slow-burning heat. This would be my preferred way to introduce both smoke and heat to a dish with latin flavors.
Inspired by my favorite song, Tomasa is Extra, Extra Spicy, strong and garlicky, for all those independent women in your life. She gives you trouble, but she knows what she's talking about. You better listen for your own good! She may be tough and extra picante, but like the song says, you will be so in love with her that you won't ever want her to leave your side. Dark, smoky and a bit of a fireball - she’s very strong. Very addictive. Very smoky. Very black.
Like a rattlesnake, the Cascabel Chile is known for its distinctive bite and this seductively spicy sauce follows suite. The intrinsic smokiness of this complex pepper is infused with the flavors of robust coffee, rich molasses and the sweetness of organic honey. The addition of raisins create a dynamic flavor that awakes the senses. The Rattler, The Sauce With A Bite.
The Heatonist is a hot sauce store in Williamsburg that stocks just about every hot sauce in the known universe. They were on hand to show off perhaps the most famous hot sauce at the expo.
First unveiled by Sean Evans on the popular celebrity eating challenge YouTube series Hot Ones, The Last Dab uses a specially crafted chili which holds the record for world's hottest. Though this sauce does have a good flavor, it is immediately replaced by regret as every millimeter of mouth and throat is completely on fire. This is definitely a sauce to try once, but only the boldest of the bold could use it everyday and maintain a healthy digestive tract.
We partnered with Guinness World Record holding pepper breeder Smokin' Ed Currie to create a sauce using his latest creation: Pepper X. More than simple mouth burn, Pepper X singes your soul. Starting with a pleasant burn in the mouth, the heat passes quickly, lulling you into a false confidence. You take another bite, enjoying the mustard and spice flavors. This would be great on jerk chicken, or Indian food! But then, WHAM! All of a sudden your skin goes cold and your stomach goes hot, and you realize the power of X.
There were so many vendors present and we tried just about everything! If you want to learn more about any of them, check out the official expo website where you can also find out more about the event's activities.
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