Whiskey Hot Sauce

Growing up, I was a wimp when it came to spice. Oh, I could ingest enough garlic to leave vapor trails and I’d pile the sauteed onions on my bistek Tagalog until you couldn’t see the beef underneath, but if I so much as half-bit into a whole peppercorn, I’d be fanning my mouth and asking for water. I couldn’t even tolerate our local banana catsup that was flavored ever-so-slightly with banana peppers.

A wimp. That’s what I was.

Then I spent a few days in Singapore with my grandmother, my uncle, and my cousin. The first meal we had was quite spicy, so I merely picked at the food on my plate. This went on for the next few meals, and after a day and a half, I was starving. Grazing on the steamed vegetable and fruit garnishes just wasn’t cutting it anymore; I needed protein and real food. And I no longer found it amusing that every dish we seemed to order had some degree of heat to it. I was tired to watching my cousin savor the local specialties while I sat quietly with my glass of water or iced tea, waiting for the plate of fried rice that would come at the end of the meal.

It was in Singapore that I first learned to endure the initial sting of spicy food, and by the time we returned to Manila, I started adding a touch of hot sauce to my food. (I will, however, forever be small fry compared to my other uncle, who pops raw ultra-spicy bird peppers in his mouth as if he were eating popcorn.)

Then I married a man from Trinidad, a country where just about every dish is seasoned with scotch bonnet peppers. They’ll eat everything with hot peppers: oysters, fresh fruit, preserved plums, beans, roti, tomatoes … they’ll even toss a green salad with slivers of these fiery hot peppers. These guy are serious about their spice, and many have their own special way of making hot sauce, more commonly referred to as pepper sauce.

Once again, I’m small fry.

One night last summer, I started reading Georgia Pellegrini’s book Food Heroes. And I couldn’t put it down, not after starting off with the chapter about Jon Rowley, which put the taste of oysters in my head for a week or two. He also had me obsessed with finding a refractometer for my dad so he can start measuring the degrees Brix of every fruit growing in his farm.

ivoryhut Whiskey Hot Sauce

But it was in her chapter about Jess Graber and Jake Norris of Stranahan’s that I spied the recipe I couldn’t wait to try: Whiskey Hot Sauce. I’m not sure what was a stronger draw, the whiskey or the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. See, I recently discovered chipotle peppers when I tried my hand at Rick Bayless’s amazing Tropical Beach Ceviche. It was a flavor I instantly loved.

ivoryhut Whiskey Hot Sauce

The ingredients are simple enough: a hot pepper, one carrot, half a lemon, half an onion, vinegar, water, molasses, cumin, chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, salt, and whiskey.

ivoryhut Whiskey Hot Sauce

I used a whole habanero pepper. I wish I had a scotch bonnet pepper, because I think they’re much more flavorful. But the habanero was an acceptable substitute.

ivoryhut Whiskey Hot Sauce

The method is simple, too. Boil the peppers and vegetables in water and vinegar, then add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for a few minutes. Then puree and store!

Want to know how my boys like to use hot sauce?

The Ivory Hut: Whiskey Hot Sauce

They like hot sauce with cheese. In fact, one of their favorite breakfast items is a warm roll with a slice of cheese and dabs of pepper sauce. Want to know something else? It’s good. Really good. Take it from this small fry. I can’t get enough of it, too.

Georgia gave me permission to share her recipe here, and I urge you to try it. It’s my favorite hot sauce, and I’m not just saying that because it’s the first that I’ve made. I have a husband who likes to make his own pepper sauce, and he loved this. It has great depth from the cumin, a nice zing from the whiskey, the wonderful smoky flavor of the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, and just the slightest hint of sweetness from the molasses. It’s great on pizza, sandwiches, hot wings, burgers, and chili.

And cheese sandwiches.


Whiskey Hot Sauce
(From Food Heroes, recipe courtesy of Georgia Pellegrini)

Makes about 1 1/2 cups hot sauce.

You can use a different kind of pepper, or adjust the amounts to taste. The original recipe called for 1/4 cup serrano peppers, but I used a habanero pepper instead. I prefer the taste of molasses, but Georgia says you can use brown sugar in its place. I’ve also made this with blended scotch whiskey because that was all I had at the time, and it didn’t seem to hurt the sauce one bit.


1 cup water
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 whole habanero pepper, without the seeds, roughly chopped
2 whole chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, roughly chopped
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1/4 cup whiskey
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Heat the water and vinegar in a small saucepan. Add the peppers (habanero and chipotle), onion, and carrot. Let it come to a simmer, then cover and continue simmering over low heat until soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. When soft, add the remaining ingredients and simmer for an additional 3 to 5 minutes.

Let cool slightly and then puree in a blender or food processor. Transfer to a glass container and allow to cool completely. Keep in the refrigerator for up to a year.

ivoryhut Whiskey Hot Sauce

I highly recommend Georgia’s book Food Heroes. It’s so well-written and each artisan’s story is so compelling that it made me want to make my own cheese, brew my own beer, sit in the warm waters of the Philippines with a sack of fresh oysters, and make my own bacon. Her passion for the story is evident, and the narrative flows so freely, it feels like you’re right there with her, spending time with these true masters.

In the meantime, please make this whiskey hot sauce as soon as you can. Seriously. It really is that good. I’m banking on my regular and steady consumption of this hot sauce to help me in my quest to climb up the chili-head ladder.

How about you? On a scale of 1 to 10, how much of a chili-head are you? Are you a 10 and have to wear a mask when cooking lest you choke on the pepper fumes? Or are you small fry like me and live closer to the 2 or 3 mark?


68 thoughts on “Whiskey Hot Sauce”

  1. My parents are from Bicol, and I grew up in Indonesia (LOVE sambal), so I think it’s safe to say I’m an 8 (I don’t remove the seeds when I cook with chilis).

  2. I ran across your recipe and would like to try it…but there’s no whiskey listed in the ingredients! How much is supposed to be in it, please?

    Or maybe I’m just missing something, let me know and I will be suitably embarrassed! But I swear I read it three times looking for the whiskey.

    Regarding spicy food, I’m a former 5 that has descended to a 3 due to not having a lot of access to good spicy food the last few years.

  3. Sounds quite delicious! Hmm…I’d say I’m probably like you, around a 2, 3…maybe 4. But my husband likes it hot! I’m definitely going to try this recipe! Thanks for sharing!

  4. I’d say I’m about a 7. I love spicy food and I always have, but more recently it’s not been loving me back.

  5. I’m definitely at the small-fry level with you. Although I have a soft spot for horseradish and wasabi, but that’s a different kind of heat all together. It doesn’t burn your lips.

    I’ve been meaning to pick up this book. It sounds delightful.

  6. I think I’m about a 7, but sometimes I’ll be silly and think I’m a 9 and then I remember I’d like to be able to handle the heat, but I just can’t. And then I go find milk.

  7. So funny that you say hot sauce with cheese! That’s been my “weird pregnancy craving” for the past 2 months or so. Hot sauce with cheese. I’ve been using a sriracha sauce, lots of it, on sharp cheddar. Sometimes with crackers and sun-dried tomatoes. Seriously, it’s the only thing that satisfies me some days. Anyway, I’d say I used to be around a 5 as far as heat went, but since my second trimester it’s been more like an 8. Some days it’s damn near a 10. What can I say? Baby likes spice!

  8. I would say that I’m about a 5. I adore spicy food, but I definitely have to be in the mood for it, otherwise I like it mild.

  9. I’m a WIMP. My tongue hurts when reading the recipe. I was a 1 but I lost ground when my husband passed away. He was at least an 8 or 9. Now I’m cooking just for myself. I would rate myself as a 1/2.

  10. Depends on the day! I don’t usually cook spicy, but lately i’ve been craving it! so i say 4-8 (only because nags gave him/herself a 6 and Indian food is spicy!) This looks like a super fun book! Thanks for letting us enter to win!

  11. I have been a wimpy 3-4 my entire life until just recently. My love for Thai food is forcing me to crave heat! I am steadily working my way to a 6 or 7. Can’t wait to try this hot sauce recipe. Thanks!

  12. I’d say I’m a middler – I like heat but flavourful heat – not just hot for the sake of hot. My Dad was from Jamaica and smuggled scotch bonnets (real one) back in his socks one time. Planted the seeds and they did well a couple of year – they’ve long since gone but they were what I call “See God HOT!”

  13. Probably about a 4 to 5. I like heat, but as someone else mentioned – it needs to be flavorful heat. Hot for hot’s sake is no good for me.

  14. I’m half-Filipina-American and half-Mexican-American, so I can tolerate really spicy foods, so I’m probably a 8 on most days. Thanks for the giveaway — it sounds like a really interesting book!

  15. I’m middle of the pack. Living part time in New Mexico requires at least that! My brother-in-law asked me one time if I ever made any food without using peppers or chilies. Oh, and I LOVE cookbooks!

  16. Well, I’d like to brag and say I’m a five but really I clock in at a good solid four. Always ready to explore my limits, though.

  17. I am wimpy…I would say a 2 or 3! But I must say the Whiskey Hot Sauce sounds good…maybe if I left the seeds out it would be a little more tame!

  18. i’d have to say i’m about a 7. i love spicy food, but there’s some point where it passes enjoyment and heads to self-torture. : )

  19. I think I’m at about an 8. I don’t mind the “esssspicy” as one of my favorite Mexican restaurant employees says.

  20. I’m an 8. Food is rarely too hot for me. Love, love, love the heat and spices that come with many international foods.

  21. I’d say I am a 5. There are certain dishes that I like to be very hot, like savory ginataan, as a balance to the creamy flavor of the coconut. Or in vinegar dip for grilled liempo.

  22. I’m a committed 1. Old Bay is about is far as I can go. Not to mention that I don’t drink. So a whiskey hot sauce would be a hilarious thing to come out of my kitchen.

    Fun question.

  23. I am probably a 6 or 7 :) I put hot sauce and chillies on and in EVERYTHING :) Might have a lot to do with the area I live in (Southwestern Colorado) but my husband thinks its a family curse!

  24. I am going to say 7 maybe 8 even. I use to be a wimp and now I am finding I like it hot but slowing moving up to hotter however, I want my flavor.
    Some hots are just hot and I do not like those, I need some depth and warmth in flavor not just temperature.

    OH and can you tell me where did you find those awesome jars?

  25. My husband is a straight-up 10. I am about a 6 or so. When pregnant, I was a 10 though. He lives chipotle, habaneros, and most importantly gentleman jack whiskey. I am making this pepper sauce this weekend. He will be thrilled! Would live to win a copy of the book…always looking for great cookbooks.

  26. I am probably a 6-7 on the (scoville) scale. Melinda’s Naga Jolokia sauce is at the tops of my list of favorites at the moment. Just keep the extract sauces out of my pantry!

  27. A 4 or a 5
    This used to be a 7 or 8 but making dinners for my kids – both are a minus 1 – took away the habbit

  28. I am probably a 4-5. I have gotten better. Either that or the jalapenos are getting milder. I will go s far as a serrano but no farther in the pepper category.
    The book sounds interesting.

  29. I am a total light-weight when it comes to spicy food. I have tried a few more spicy foods lately and didn’t dislike them. My husband loves spicy food so I need to learn to tolerate it a little more.

  30. I used to be a negative four, but I think as of lately Ive been craving some spicier foods, so I would give myself a solid 3.

  31. I am probably a four. I live in South Texas and really love spicy Mexican food.

    I just found your blog and I LOVE IT!

    Thanks so much.

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