The saucy poultry purveyors at Buffalo Wild Wings offer a setting where people can eat a variety of wings, while rigging a football game so it goes into OT. But with so many flavors on their menu (and their penchant for illegally influencing sporting events), we wondered about the accuracy of the color-coded system they use to rank their sauces.
Two intrepid wing-lovers sat down with BW3's 12 hottest sauces and ranked them on heat and flavor. And because the perfect wing finds a balance of sweet and heat, we tallied up the results so you know what to order when you want to impress with your fire-eating ability, and what to eat when you're being a wuss.
12. HONEY BBQ Taste: 4/10 - For two sugar-laden flavors, the honey & BBQ work surprisingly well together, but more smoke would've backed the combo up. Heat: 1.5/10 - This is the gateway sauce for timid wing-lovers.
11. HOT BBQ Taste: 3/10 - If I didn't know I was eating wings, I'd think this was the gloopy, sweet sauce that drips off home-cookout ribs. But I did know I was eating them, as buffalo wing-induced amnesia is not real. Heat: 4.5/10 - The peppers are drowned out by the BBQ sweetness.
10. ASIAN ZING Taste: 4/10 - The teriyaki flavors are up-front like a kick to the taste buds. Heat: 3.5/10 - There's no zing, bam, pow, or other Batman exclamation needed to describe the spicy factor, but it does complement the soy/sugar/ginger sauce.
8 (tie). THAI CURRY Taste: 5/10 - There's an undeniable yellow-curry aftertaste, which was odd since there was no such flavor while I was actually eating the wing. Heat: 4.5/10 - Like when you tell a Thai take-out place to make your meal spicy and they don't because they know you can't handle it, this kick is far from overwhelming.
8 (tie).JAMMIN' JALAPENO Taste: 5.5/10 - "Ham-min' Hall-ah-peen-yo" or "Jam-min' Jah-lah-pen-yo"? Turns out there's actual jam in this sauce, so the inordinate amount of time we spent trying to decide which "J" pronunciation was appropriate was a total waste. Pronunciation issues aside, the sauce's spicy sweetness was pleasant. Heat: 3/10 - Tame enough for your little brother.
6 (tie). CARIBBEAN JERK Taste: 5.5/10 - All the standard jerk flavors are present in this sauce: cayenne, allspice, cinnamon, and sugar. Heat: 4.5/10 - A sign of a good wing is when the heat grows as you keep eating, and this one nails it.
6 (tie). MEDIUM Taste: 7.5/10 - This is a basic wing, and it works perfectly: peppers and sweetness happily intermingle like kids at a middle school dance once the DJ finally puts on the "Cha Cha Slide". Heat: 4/10 - Medium throws a subtle, tingly punch that'll make a hot-wing novice nervous that it's so low on BWW's heat scale.
5. SPICY GARLIC Taste: 7.5/10 - If you've been avoiding garlic since you scared (and scarred) that girl at the bar because, yes, your breath really did smell that bad, this is definitely a reason to come back to the stinky goodness. Heat: 4/10 - The sauce is a would-be contender for top honors if only it brought more fire.
3 (tie). HOT Taste: 6/10 - Those kids finally stopped cha cha-ing real smooth, graduated, went to a kegger, and really got to know each other better. Heat: 7.5/10 - On a scale of "child's play" and "Please, let me chug that gallon of milk", this comes in around "Sorry, I don't usually sweat while I eat".
3 (tie). BLAZIN' Taste: 3.5/10 - See below. Heat: 10/10 - My mouth is numb. Do I still have a tongue? I can't feel it. But if you want a hot wing -- emphasis 100% on the hot -- this is your sauce.
2. WILD Heat: 7.5/10 - In a few wings, we're going to need that gallon of milk. Taste: 7.5/10 - It tastes... like a wing, that quintessential bar food. It is the most wing-like of the wings.
1. MANGO HABANERO Taste: 9/10 - Mango, that fruit you always think about buying at the store before realizing you don't know what the hell it looks like, has the perfect sweetness to contrast the flamin' peppers without being cloyingly sweet. Heat: 8/10 - Fiery, but balanced.
THE VERDICT We learned that balance is key: two sugar-laden condiments, BBQ sauce and honey, need a whole lotta heat to counteract the sweetness, and Honey BBQ just doesn't have it. Blazin' is painfully (really) unbalanced in the other direction and skewed our scoring system with its over-the-top heat, but it is worth the taste if you're searching for hotter-than-hot fire.
Mango Habanero scored a touchdown (in OT) in both heat and flavor, ensuring it was, unquestionably, the winner.
Liz Childers is a food/drink editorial assistant at Thrillist and thought she could brave the Blazin' sauce, but is still regaining the use of her taste buds a month later. Follow her at @lizchilders1.
Adam Lapetina is a food/drink staff writer at Thrillist, and subsisted primarily on Buffalo wings for a good portion of his life. Read his musings on Twitter at @adamlapetina.