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A Hot Sauce of a Different Variety


Now and again people offer to send me things to evaluate. Sometimes I must respond with a “thank you” and an explanation that while I could probably find a use for drywall screws around my house, drywall screws are not something people who read a food blog called “Haute Plates” expect to see discussed. (If I am wrong, and you want to read reviews of drywall screws and other fasteners, please let me know, because I’m so down to discuss the relative merits of coarse or fine thread and don’t get me started on when to use #6 vs. #8 gauge.)

Then there are things I receive that are related to food. These are generally cookbooks I receive with no prior notice that are aimed at very specific markets. Cookbooks such as “1001 Uses for Beets,” “Eat Greens and Prosper,” or “Oh, Fig!: How the Vatican Controls the Media Through Fruit.”

I took some liberties with the titles and content of the books offered to me. The point is that I get a lot of things and don’t write about them, so when I do get something worthy, I try to remark.

In that vein, I have been playing around with a few of the hot sauces sent to me by Swamp Dragon recently. It’s a simple idea: hot sauces made with alcohol instead of vinegar.

This took some getting used to for me, because the “hot sauces” I use on a regular basis are those whose ingredients are peppers, salt and vinegar. The vinegar is as much the point as the heat for my general usage.

So I was skeptical, and while I’m not going to be replacing my vinegar-based sauces with Swamp Dragon products, that’s only because for me these sauces serve a different purpose. I’m looking at them as ingredients and thinking about how I can use them in various dishes. As it turns out, liquor-based hot sauces are actually interesting.

First: yes, you will taste the liquor. It is more pronounced in some of the sauces than others; the tequila and the ouzo are unmistakable; the vodka-based sauce just has a flavor of alcohol, salt, and chile. If you like the flavor of a particular liquor, you will almost certainly like the sauce Swamp Dragon makes therefrom.

That is, of course, if you also like very spicy things, because these sauces are very spicy. Spicier than the brand of hot sauce you picture in your mind when I say “hot sauce.” Not overwhelmingly spicy but hot enough that tasted straight you’ll remember it a half hour later.

I’ve had samples for a few weeks now, and I’ve been playing around with them intermittently. I haven’t done as deep a dive as I’d like, but I’ve used them enough that I feel comfortable sharing my experience.

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The first test I did was to mix some of the sauce with powdered sugar, because I do that with Tabasco, Crystal, and all hot sauces at some point. I did not expect to like the result, and I did not where the tequila was concerned. I did, however, like it with the bourbon, rum, and the ouzo-based sauces because in each case the flavor of the liquor worked with the sweetness.

The tequila sauce was a hell of a good thing in a Bloody Mary and in a quick tomato sauce with finely diced onion. I also added some to good effect in guacamole.

The bourbon hot sauce worked when I used it in a sauce with an abundance of butter on chicken wings. I did not have a chance to try the ouzo sauce out as a marinade for fried cauliflower, but I have a feeling it will be good in that application.

When I spoke to Swamp Dragon’s founder, Matt Beeson, he told me that he was looking for a sauce that didn’t have the vinegar-forward flavor, and that’s precisely what he came up with. If that is your jam, then you’ll enjoy these sauces. I may end up using them as a condiment from time to time, but what prompted me to write was that I keep thinking of ways to use the different sauces as components. They interest me, and that’s something these days.



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