Choosing the right hot sauce for your Bloody Mary is a daunting task. When choosing one of the dozens—nay, hundreds—of available options, it doesn’t just come down to spice tolerance—although heat level is a major factor to consider. You’ll also want to consider exactly what you want out of a Bloody Mary and the choice of hot sauce makes a major difference, adding smoky complexity, fruity sweetness, Southern vinegar tang, or tongue tingling fire. No matter what you want out of your Bloody, here are 11 of the best hot sauces to take it to next level awesome.
For a Classic Bloody: Tabasco ($4)
Tabasco is the O.G. hot sauce. It burst onto the hot sauce scene about 60 years before the spicy red cocktail it so often gives life. More heat than nuanced flavor, Tabasco’s rough vinegar spice makes it the tangy bruiser of the bunch. Though it may not be the most subtle choice, it’s certainly never the wrong one.
For better or worse, Frank’s Red Hot will forever be associated with Buffalo wings, since the original 1964 recipes calls for the sauce. But the cayenne-forward sauce is as good a choice for an historically accurate Bloody as Tabasco. Cayenne pepper was the spice of choice for Bloody fans back in the 1940s, including Ernest Hemingway, who called for it in his own batched Bloody recipe.
For the Spirited Southern Mary: Crystal ($1.50)
Other than giving you street cred in New Orleans where this distinctive blue-striped bottle is king, Crystal will give your cocktail some of that coveted Southern tang. While you could use Louisiana Hot Sauce for a similar effect, Crystal is as steeped in Southern tradition as it gets. It’s got an endearing backstory, not to mention more flavor per dash than its watered down competitors. Go full Gulf by garnishing with a skewered shrimp.
For a Smoky, Fruity Number: Adobo Sauce ($2)
On its own, adobo is a slightly sweet, slightly tangy red sauce. But when it’s used as the liquid preservative for chipotle chilies, it becomes a whole different beast, with the pepper’s heat sharpening the sauce’s tangy edges. Pour the dredges of a chipotle chili can right into your cocktail shaker for fruity heat with unexpected nuance.
For a Bloody Maria: Cholula ($6)
Tapatío and Cholula dominate the Mexican hot sauce game, but we’re squarely on team Cholula for its unique, smoky, nutty taste of pequin and arbol peppers. The flavor would meld seamlessly with a vodka-based Bloody, but if you want to do the Jalisco-based company proud, you’ll swap in a measure of tequila for a Bloody Maria.
For the Over-Garnished Instagram Bait: Sriracha ($6)
When likes are the ultimate measure of your success behind the bar, no brand name will rack up admiring eyeballs quite like Sriracha. Do your best impression of the label’s proud rooster and build your Bloody as high as you can before snapping that Instagram pic. The squeezable sauce is too garlicky to play well in the vast majority of cocktails, so take advantage of this savory treat.
Under-ripened green jalapeño delivers more natural vegetal notes than its red hot ilk, and that raw flavor is on full display in this grassy hued Tabasco. Using it in a Bloody won’t quite turn the cocktail from red to green, but it will add an unexpected twinge of bright heat to your drink. Double down on the celery garnish and sip this one garden-side.
If you can’t get enough of that woody barrel-aged flavor, you’re in for a treat with this Michigan-made hot sauce. BLiS Blast Sauce is aged in former bourbon, maple syrup and Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout barrels, giving it a wicked triple infusion of staved flavor. In case you’re wondering about its name, “BLiS” stands for “Because Life is Short”—the answer to many Bloody-related questions like: Why would you barrel-age hot sauce? Or, why should we make a pitcher of Bloodys right this minute?
An amazing Bloody can permanently change your life for the better. But an amazingly spicy Bloody can temporarily incapacitate you in the best way. This is less a hot sauce recommendation than a PSA: Putting this ghost pepper-infused hot sauce in your Bloody Mary comes with certain risks—it’s an inferno only to be braved by the most seasoned of spice experts. Proceed at your own risk.
Opening the cap of El Yucateco’s intimidating black bottle releases more smoke than a peaty scotch. If the smell of the fumes doesn’t immediately send shivers down your spine you might want to check your pulse. Where there’s smoke, there’s inevitably fire, and El Yucateco delivers on its potent aroma with serious charred heat.
Brunch Bloodys are a Sunday morning ritual for a reason: They get you up and moving after a long Saturday night. Scotch bonnet peppers, which characterize jerk seasoning and fiery Jamaican fare, infuse Matouk’s with fruity island funk along with unadulterated heat. This Caribbean sauce will have you dancing in no time—you’ll be too shook to sit still.