No matter what your favorite hot sauce is, whether you’re a Tabasco die-hard or a Sriracha purist, you’re basically eating the same thing: hot peppers and white vinegar. Nearly every commercial hot sauce uses the sharp vinegar as a preservative, relying on the acetic acid in vinegar to kill off bacteria and make the sauce shelf-stable. The only problem with white vinegar is that, quite frankly, it’s better for cleaning toilets than complementing pepper’s natural flavors.
As with many of life’s problems, the solution is alcohol. A new brand of hot sauce, called Swamp Dragon, ditches the vinegar in favor of alcohol, which offers the same preservative properties without the nasty tang. Plus, the brand’s five flavors -- vodka, rum, tequila, ouzo, and bourbon -- give every dish a different boozy kick.
Founder Matt Beeson isn’t a food scientist, but as a native of New Orleans, he was raised on a steady diet of classic hot sauce brands. The vinegar flavor just never sat right with him. “I would spend a couple of days making a beautiful pot of gumbo, and it just seems against the divine plan to dump some vinegar in that just to get some spice,” he says. “The smell of it clashes. The taste of it doesn’t work with anything.”
Fed up, Beeson turned to vodka for help. “I thought, well vodka doesn’t go bad if you leave it out, so what if I switched vodka for the vinegar in a hot sauce,” he says. After a few years of passive market research, he realized that there were no true alcohol-based sauces available, just products infused or flavored with alcohol. So he seized that hole in the market.