The Local newsletter is your free, daily guide to life in Colorado. For locals, by locals. Sign up today!
There may be no official hot sauce season, as scorching your delicate lingual membranes knows no month nor sun cycle—but if there was, there’s a case to be made that the winter holidays are that season. Besides warming you up with their intense heat, the cute, little bottles are perfect for sticking in stockings and affordable enough for a random office gift exchange or white elephant party.
But with so many on the market, the number of options can be overwhelming. No matter how much you love to feel the burn, you’ve come to the right place. We tasted nine Colorado hot sauces and ranked them by spiciness, because democracy dies in the dark.
Here, the answer to the burning question of which Colorado-made hot sauces are actually the hottest.
9. Redlaw Sauce Co. Serrano Scorpion Red Label
The flavor: Tangy and fresh, with a whisper of cilantro. (Yes, whisper, because hot sauce reviews deserve flowery language too.)
The heat: This is a good sauce for adding flavor without a whole lot of heat. If you’re looking for serious spiciness though, keep reading.
8. Wild Green Jalapeño Red
The flavor: Bright and a little smoky, this was one of the best tasting sauces we sampled. We would eat it on anything—eggs, meats, grilled cheese—and proceeded to do so.
The heat: While it definitely has a kick, the spice level isn’t overpowering. True chile heads will want more fire.
7. Seed Ranch Flavor Co. Umami Reserve
The flavor: This sauce is very different from your typical hot sauce. You really get the earthiness of the tamari, along with the oven-dried olives and porcini and shitake mushrooms that go into it. Because of that richness, it feels more substantial than conventional condiments.
The heat: The spiciness comes from chocolate habanero peppers, but it’s manageable.
6. Horsetooth Hot Sauce The “O” Face
Hometown: Fort Collins
The flavor: Thick, and speckled with tiny chunks of carrot, garlic, and even cantaloupe, this one has a sour-sweet thing going.
The heat: The line’s spiciest sauce is hot for sure, but it’s not going to give your tongue nightmares.
5. Quarantine Project Dieselbones
The flavor: All of optician/hot sauce maker/former comedian Rick DeSimone’s sauces give great flavor, but Dieselbones amps it up a notch with its garlicky, serrano mash blend.
The heat: It is spicy but will not make you hurt.
4. Gilberto’s Gourmet Goodness Habanero Garlic
Hometown: Fort Collins
The flavor: There’s a certain sweetness to Gilberto’s, which is strange because it’s all fire and vinegar and garlic in the ingredients. But trust us—there’s a little sweet with this heat.
The heat: Is it suddenly the early 2000s? Is that megarapper Nelly in the building? Because it’s getting hot in herre! The green and orange habanero peppers in this sauce are gonna make you sweat. (And yes, that was a C+C Music Factory reference smashed right on up against Nelly—and we stand by it.)
3. Merfs Cooyon Superhot
The flavor: For being made with six million Scoville capsaicin extract, the sweet flavors of the pineapple juice and apricot still really shine. And its zesty orange color is just so pretty, so it’s got that going for it, too.
The heat: When it first hits your tongue, you’re going to be like, “5280 is so dumb; this isn’t spicy at all…” Then you won’t be able to speak anymore because the fire comes at the end and the back of your throat will be engulfed in metaphorical flames. It gave one of our tasters the hiccups.
2. Danny Cash’s 1%er Scorpion Reaper Hot Sauce
The flavor: This one has the look and texture of barbecue sauce, and you get some of that vinegar/molasses-y taste mingled with the fire from the world’s two hottest peppers, the Carolina Reaper and Trinidad Scorpion.
The heat: It assaults the tongue immediately, but mercifully eases up. While it definitely provides that initial feeling of “Oh God, no!” the burn doesn’t stick for very long, which means you can go back for more.
1. Burns & McCoy Exhorresco
Hometown: Fort Collins
The flavor: We’re sure this one has flavor—but since none of us who tried the sauce are willing to try it ever again, we can’t say with full certainty. We think it was smoky and robust, though.
The heat: It starts hot, it stays hot, and it somehow just keeps getting hotter and hotter. After this sauce, one taster tapped out of the testing, and another felt lightheaded and disoriented from the intense heat. Everyone downed milk, stuffed their mouths with bread, and stuck their tongues into a bag of sugar in an attempt to ease the burn. This sauce is unbearably hot and will make you miserable, which makes it the perfect stocking stuffer for both the macho chile lovers and mortal enemies in your life alike. Because nothing says “Happy Holidays!” quite like a bottle full of 7-Pot Primo peppers that will burn your face off.