Food is not something we usually cover here at FEARnet. Sure, we've had our musings on the annual Halloween tradition of General Mills resurrecting their Monster Cereals, or Cadbury's creepy confections in the UK, but horror and food don't really get many team-up opportunities. Even when it does happen, with the usual Halloweenification of products from September to November, it's rarely remarkable. A pumpkin-shaped peanut butter cup or orange-creamed Oreos are not exactly what one would call horrific.
Enter Victor "The Undertaker" Ives, a man who took his two loves of horror and hot sauce and combined them into one utterly weird but wonderful product line: Haunted Hot Sauce. While he certainly seems to have the horror angle down pat, with sauces bearing spooky names like Fleshfeast and Ghoul Drool, does the flavor of the sauce hold up its end of the deal?
First, let's cover the horror angle…this is FEARnet, after all! Haunted Hot Sauce has got the fright aspect covered wonderfully. Most of the sauces in the product line have a label that has a deliciously cheesy sideshow/pre-comics code pulp vibe, featuring either a flesh-gnawing zombie or the mug of the Undertaker himself with the exception of the two hottest sauces: Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein's Made in Hell Hot Sauce and Hell-Razor, which feature their own unique labels. Most of the sauces also come with a tattered scrap of "burial cloth" tied to the cap with a bit of twine and a "toe tag" to complete the package. All of these sauces also have the special gift option of being shipped in a handmade custom cedar coffin filled with moss and rubber maggots. The whole thing has an excellently executed horror tone, right down to the shipping boxes having everything from rubber cockroaches to candy eyeballs stuffed in the gaps between the shipping materials. Still not convinced? The guy who makes the sauce looks like this:
I rest my case.
The other unique thing about Haunted Hot Sauce is that it's made in small batches by hand which is reflected in the sauce's appearance. Those who are used to the smooth, homogeneous color of a store-bought sauce like Tabasco or Frank's Red Hot might find the appearance of the Undertaker's creations a little off-putting. He uses lots of herbs and spices, everything from basil to coarse ground black pepper, and it shows in the sauce: this stuff is absurdly thick and mottled and speckled with all of the ingredients in a fashion that might gross out those who've never encountered a homemade product like this. It's got the charm of a state fair product, the sort of thing you'd buy in a canning jar from a bearded man on a crisp fall day.
Now that we've covered the obvious love of horror that went into the product, let's talk about the next most important question: how do they taste? I got a chance to dip into the entire product line, and it's damned delicious, to say the least.
This entry level sauce differs from the majority of the other sauces in the line by being based on jalapeno peppers rather than cayenne peppers. This gives it the unique quality of being bright green, rather than the rusty red that the other Haunted Hot Sauces are. However, it certainly doesn't skimp on flavor, making it a great option for those looking for just a pinch of heat and a heaping helping of tangy taste.
Fleshfeast/Fleshfeast 2/Fleshfeast 3
The next trilogy of sauces can pretty much be covered under one banner, as they share the same thick, delicious cayenne base between the three of them, with each of the "sequels" adding both heat and flavor with additional ingredients. Fleshfeast, the mildest of the three, has the sharp tang of vinegar tempered by a deliciously complex array of spices. It's probably the closest in heat to your traditional Tabasco, but the thickness and flavor slaughters the McIlhenny standard. Fleshfeast 2 adds in the bite of coarse ground black pepper to the base, which gives an eye-opening sharpness to the mix. Finally, Fleshfeast 3 is the king of the line, adding in the smokiness and heat of crushed red pepper on top of the black pepper and rounding out the flavor even further. This one joins Friday the 13th Part III and A Nightmare on Elm St 3 in the pantheon of "number 3s" that are just as good as the originals.
Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein's Made in Hell
Bearing the namesake of Misfits and Gorgeous Frankenstein guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein, Made in Hell is easily my favorite out of the batch. While similar to the Fleshfeast sauces, Made in Hell has an extra depth of flavor thanks to a heavy helping of basil, which imparts sweetness to the sauce that makes the increased cayenne kick go down easier. Even with a pretty substantial heat level—even over the decently hot Fleshfeast 3—Made in Hell tastes absolutely amazing.
"…an experience beyond limits... pain and pleasure, indivisible." –Frank Cotton, Hellraiser
Hell-Razor is a cruel joke. A cruel, delicious joke. Behind perhaps the most reserved of the product line's labels—a simple text label that wouldn't be out of place on a bottle of snake oil tonic—lies the most vicious of all of the sauces that Haunted Hot Sauce has to offer. The initial experience is wonderful: the habaneros impart a distinctly different base flavor from the other cayenne sauces in the line, and all of the spices that he has mixed in are apparent and flavorful. Then the heat sets in, numbing your tongue and lips while still leaving behind a mouth-mangling burn that no amount of milk or bread can wash away. In spite of the pain I kept forking eggs (my favorite delivery method for any hot sauce) into my mouth, trying to get more of the full, robust flavor somewhere in the sea of pain my mouth had become. This is the sort of product that inspires masochism: you know it hurts, and you know it's bad for you, but you simply don't care. This is definitely not a sauce for everyone, but those who like their sauces extra hot will find something to love in this little bottle of hell.
There are two other sauces in the Haunted Hot Sauce line as well: Mortician's Mold and the Undertaker's Undead Hot Sauce. Both of these share the same recipes as other sauces (Mortician's Mold is Ghoul Drool and Undertaker's Undead Hot Sauce is Fleshfeast 2), but with different labels for marketing purposes. There's also a few other sauces coming down the line soon: another Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein-endorsed sauce called Abominator and, Vic ominously warns, "what's a Haunted Hot Sauce company without a Ghost pepper sauce?" Heaven help us all.
"Anybody can make a sauce that sets your face on fire, that's just chemistry!" Victor quipped in a recent email to me discussing his sauces, "But to get that balance of heat that makes you take notice coupled with slow simmered garlic, onion, basil, oregano, etc. THAT'S a challenge and that's the part I love!" This is really what sets this product apart from others like it: it's a labor of love. Like a great horror flick, there's going to be love for the genre behind it, and Victor Ives has it in spades. If you're a fan of all things spicy and horrific, you owe it to yourself to check out Haunted Hot Sauce.
You can purchase Haunted Hot Sauce exclusively at http://www.hauntedhotsauce.com.