The untold truth of Tabasco
Burgers, bloody marys, breakfast burritos… you name it, Tabasco hot sauce makes it taste better. The distinctive flavor of the spicy, vinegary hot sauce is an American staple that has been around for almost 150 years. But other than its delicious peppery flavor, how much do you know about this beloved hot sauce? From its rich history to its biggest fans, here’s what you need to know about Tabasco.
It was the very first hot sauce
Tabasco was founded on Avery Island, Louisiana by a man named Edmund McIlhenny. After the Civil War, McIlhenny took to growing Tabasco peppers and fermenting them to create a spicy pepper sauce that he would eventually name Tabasco. As the sauce became a hit, he decided to send sample bottles to food distributors. At the time, no other commercial hot sauces existed, making Tabasco the first on the market. Today, the headquarters still remain on Avery Island and fill every bottle of Tabasco produced.
The original flavor contains only three ingredients
Some hot sauces come loaded with a long list of ingredients, but not Tabasco. This hot sauce is perfected using only three natural ingredients, peppers, vinegar, and salt — that’s it. With such a simple ingredients list, it may sound easy to replicate, but don’t be fooled. These hand-picked peppers have never been genetically modified, meaning they’re genetically the same as the original peppers. Even the salt itself is special, as it’s extracted from the salt mines of Avery Island. Looks like you’re better leaving it to the pros and buying a Tabasco bottle instead.
It takes three years to make
Originally, Tabasco aged for 30 days in stone jars, but not anymore. Expanding the aging time, those precious drops of hot sauce now must be aged for three years before hitting the bottle. This is done by adding the mash to white oak barrels, which in turn allows it to develop a bold flavor. When it’s finished, it’s then mixed with the mined Avery Island salt and distilled-cane vinegar.
If you’re wondering about where the barrels come from, they’re not virgin white oak barrels. Before they found a second life aging Tabasco, they previously aged whiskey from companies like Jack Daniel’s. You won’t find any whiskey residue in Tabasco though — the top layer of wood is removed before aging the hot sauce. Too bad, a whiskey-flavored Tabasco could be good! The recycling doesn’t stop there, however. You’ll be happy to know Tabasco reuses the same barrels for 50 years in an effort to practice sustainability. How’s that for recycling?
Cologne bottles were the original packaging
Tabasco wasn’t always packaged in those iconic bottles they come in today. When founder McIlhenny first produced bottles of Tabasco, he used old cologne bottles for packaging. The discarded cologne bottles were the perfect vessel for the concentrated sauce. As they contained sprinkler fitments, the cologne bottles would allow drops of hot sauce to be dispensed rather than pouring out at once. This way, 19th century consumers who weren’t used to hot sauce wouldn’t burn their tongues. While they no longer use cologne bottles, the bottles used today still possess that same technology, allowing the hot sauce lover to douse at their leisure.
One tiny bottle goes a long way
Have you ever wondered how many drops you can get from a two-ounce bottle of Tabasco? At least 720 drops. That sounds like a whole lot of drops, but with 60 drops in one teaspoon, there are only about 12 teaspoons per bottle.
It has a long shelf life
Determining the shelf life of a bottle of hot sauce can be difficult. While it may have a production date, there’s often no expiration date in sight. When it comes to Tabasco, you probably won’t have to worry because it has a shelf life of five years. As long as you store it in a cool, dry place and keep it out of direct sunlight, you’ll get the longest life out of your bottle. If it’s past the five year mark and you happen to consume it, don’t worry, it’s not like a gallon of milk. Rather than spoil, it will lose flavor. Not that it will last long enough to test.
The number on the bottom means something
Have you ever looked at the bottom of a Tabasco bottle and noticed the numbers imprinted in the glass? If you haven’t, stop for a second and examine that bottle sitting on your counter. What you see serves as a technical function for the bottling plant. Each number represents a mold number that is specific to each bottle, allowing the company to maintain a higher standard of quality control. That may not be the most exciting fact, but it will come in handy next time you do Tabasco trivia — and it helps you be more confident you’re getting the good stuff.
Each variety is gluten-free and kosher
Good news hot sauce lovers with dietary restrictions, all seven signature Tabasco varieties are gluten-free and Kosher! Love Tabasco Habanero Pepper? Douse away! Prefer Tabasco Green Jalapeño Pepper? You can have that too. While you may have to watch out for what you’re putting it on, at least you can have the hot sauce you crave.
Scorpion is its hottest sauce
For some people, hot sauce is just not hot enough. You know those people, the ones that break out in sweats as they eat and still beg for more. If you’re one of those people, you’ll be happy to know Tabasco has recently upped their spice game and created their hottest sauce yet, Tabasco Scorpion Sauce. Scorpion Sauce is just the latest in Tabasco’s hard to find sauces, officially available only through their online store, their Amazon storefront, or by visiting Avery Island in person.
According to Food and Wine, this hot sauce is a blend of Scorpion peppers, guava, pineapple, and a dash of the Original Tabasco, making it nearly 20 times hotter than the original flavor — yikes! Glass of milk anyone?
Guam is its biggest fan
The people of Guam love Tabasco, and I mean, love Tabasco. So much so that as of 2013, they were the number one in Tabasco use per capita. Considering Tabasco is sold in over 165 countries, that’s a lot of hot sauce love. You’re probably wondering where the United States ranked on the list, since it did originate in the USA after all. Right behind Guam, we came in second, but only by a long shot. Per year, our per capita consumption was .75-ounces, which is nothing compared to Guam’s 4-ounce consumption per capita. Since it’s technically a US island territory, that still means we consumed the most.
Astronauts eat it in space
If Tabasco has accomplished one thing in its existence other than winning over the hearts of hot sauce lovers, it’s the fact that it has been in space. Like the people of Guam, astronauts love Tabasco. According to NPR, when astronauts arrive in space they start to crave spicy things, partly due to loss of sense of smell. With something as pungent and flavorful as Tabasco hot sauce, it’s no wonder they started to add it to the menu.
Hillary Clinton always travels with a bottle
Women keep a lot of items in their purse, including hot sauce. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. What may comes as a surprise is Hillary Clinton is one of them. According to Conde Nast Traveler, right alongside her Advil and sunscreen lies a mini bottle of Tabasco just waiting to add some heat to a meal. Now that I think of it, it makes sense, Tabasco is just too good to pass up.
It's fit for royalty
Astronauts and Hillary Clinton aren’t the only ones that love Tabasco, so does Queen Elizabeth. In fact, she loves it so much that that in 2009 she awarded it the Royal Warrant. Royal Warrants are considered to be a great honor, and can only be passed out by actual royalty. So say what you want about where Tabasco ranks on your own list, but if it’s good enough for the Queen, it’s good enough for us.