There’s no one sauce that can do it all. And that’s not a bad thing.

By David McCann
Updated January 30, 2020
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In the olden days, there was Tabasco. Only Tabasco. Hot. Salty. Vinegary. A very straightforward blast of heat to perk up your food, or your Bloody Mary. But my friends, times have changed. Walk down a certain aisle of any grocery store in the USA and you will be overwhelmed with the hot sauce choices laid out before you.

And there is only one way to decide which are your favorites. And that is to taste them. Now, for me, tasting lots of hot sauces is not a bad thing. And, frankly, it’s hard to find a truly bad one. But what you will start to discover is that no one single hot sauce is going to meet all of your culinary needs.

Sometimes you just want heat.

Sometimes you’d like your heat with a touch of garlic.

Or a lot of salt. Or a lot less salt.

Do you want floral, fruity heat with a real kick?

Do you want to imagine yourself at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo getting ready to dive into a basket of wings?

Maybe you’re making something green or light colored and you don’t want a red hot sauce turning your dish brown.

Does too much vinegar make the sauce so puckery you can’t swallow? Or does a lesser amount of vinegar make the sauce taste insipid?

I can’t give you a laundry list of which sauces tick which boxes because everyone’s palate reacts differently. (What is too salty for me may be perfectly seasoned to you.) And while I love heat so intense that I begin to sweat, I have a friend who finds the smallest piece of the mildest jalapeno agonizingly painful to eat.

So this is one of those “taste test” times. Gather some friends. Make big bowls of guac or salsa, and a big pitcher of Bloody Marys, with virtually no heat. Or even a big mess of scrambled eggs. Have everybody bring a different bottle of hot sauce and get down to some serious research.You’ll get a million opinions. You’ll form your own as well. And if it’s as much fun as I predict, do it again the next weekend with a totally different array of hot sauces. People can swap the leftover sauces (if any remain) so you won’t have a fridge full of half empty bottles.

And, by the end, you will not only have hosted a wonderful party or two, but you will have started the journey that will end with you finding the hot sauces of your dreams. And all of our dreams can use a little heat from time to time.