April 20, 2018
For true hot sauce lovers, no condiment is too hot — or too expensive.
Take the fans of Mad Dog 357 Plutonium hot sauce. Lovers of that wacky tabasco pay $100 per ounce for the pepper extract, which is so spicy that it can induce crying, cramping and an inability to stand upright.
“It takes 1,000 chili peppers to make 1 ounce” of the super-hot sauce, David Ashley, owner of Ashley Food Company, tells The Post. Ingest a pinhead’s worth of the body-numbing stuff, “and your tongue will hurt. Some idiot gargled with a whole bottle. People who do stuff like that usually throw up.”
Then there are the sauces coveted by collectors. Those routinely sell for hundreds of dollars per bottle — which some buyers care more about than the stuff inside.
“Guys who buy that stuff are into hard-core collecting,” says Steve Seabury, organizer of the NYC Hot Sauce Expo, taking place this weekend at the NYC Hot Sauce Expo in Brooklyn.
Seabury, who also owns High River Sauces, ranks the Ca John Lady Liberty sauce, which resembles a fiery Statue of Liberty and can be had for $450, among his top picks.
Such collectible hot sauces, Seabury explains, are “made in limited editions and sell like hot cakes. People buy those bottles and don’t even open them. So some of the companies throw in a little vial on the side that contains sauce to try.”
Of those, “the coolest-looking ones come from Hellfire Hot Sauce,” James Beck, proprietor of Houston-based iBurn, the largest hot sauce retailer in Texas, tells The Post. “They hired a clay artist to create intricate, detailed, extraordinarily elaborate bottles.” One features a cartoonish pig with red eyes and a giant cigar in his mouth. Another looks like a keeled-over chili pepper with clenched teeth.
According to Beck, the pig and the pepper can go for as much as $1,000 each.
Among the most rabid hot sauce collectors is Vic Clinco, 50, manager at a food distributor in Phoenix. His collection is 8,400 bottles strong and includes offerings from around the world.
The man is so engaged to the peppery stuff that it seems to spike the very blood in his veins. “I would describe my interest in hot sauce as an obsession,” Clinco, who will be attending the expo, tells The Post. “In my teens something clicked where nothing was hot enough for me. Right now ghost-pepper sauce” — made from a pepper that once ranked as the hottest on Earth; that title is now held by the Carolina Reaper — “is my mellow, everyday go-to.”
Underscoring the devotion: a ghost-pepper tattoo on his left forearm.
Clinco’s not a complete hot sauce elitist: His collection includes low-rent bottles, too, along with prototype potions, bottles signed by the makers and rarities from a lauded New Jersey-based hot sauce company known as Blair’s. “I have two of the bottles called Caldera and I’ve seen them selling for $2,400.” The sauce — which contains chili pepper crystals at least twice as hot as pepper spray — comes in a foot-tall bottle capped with a skull dipped in 24-karat gold. One is currently on eBay at the relative bargain price of $795.
For those seeking something even hotter — if less pricey — Blair’s also puts out its appropriately named 16 Million Reserve. The impact of ingestion can be seen on YouTube where a knucklehead is shown downing a few specks and becoming unable to speak or stop himself from spitting up. It can be yours for just $545.