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Edmund McIhenny, the creator of this fine and wonderful condiment, fled New Orleans after the Union Army entered the city during the Civil War. He and his wife took refuge on Avery Island until Union forces captured the salt mines there owned by his wife's family. They then fled to Texas. When the returned after the war to their plantation, the only crop that remained was one of capsicum peppers. Determined to make money from the peppers, Edmund tried to make a hot sauce. The peppers were combined with vinegar, Avery Island salt and then aged in wooden barrels. In 1868, 350 bottles of Cajun Tobasco Sauce were produced. Voila.

The McIhenny company was also one of the first corporations to take out a genetic patent. In patenting the "Tabasco Pepper" as a specific breed that could not be replicated by any other corporate or private entity, they opened the door for the Super Mouse cancerous rodent and the countless bio-patents that followed.

"The same day the peppers are picked, they are mashed, mixed with a small amount of Avery Island salt, placed in white oak wooden barrels and allowed to ferment and then age for up to three years." from

Tabasco sauce is often under-rated because it is so common. It is one of the best hot sauces available. And its accessibility is a virtue.

On the Web site, they have a QuickTime video of a television advertisement involving a man, a cheese pizza, and a mosquito.
Roll it.

Tabasco Sauce is a condiment that springs to the average person's mind when "hot sauce" is brought up in casual conversation. It was invented in 1869 by Edmund McIlhenny, who, upon moving to Avery Island, Louisiana, started farming the peppers that make up the sauce's primary ingredient and distilling them into sauce. He was granted a patent on the sauce the following year. The success of the product was immediate in New Orleans restuarants (Avery Island is about 140 miles from there), and national success quickly followed. By the end of the 1870s, it was being regularly exported to Britian and mainland Europe. Between then and now, it has become one of the most popular condiments in the world, as it is available in 105 different countries worldwide.

The pepper, officially known as the Tabasco pepper, has been cultivated on Avery Island since at least 1848. They're small, about half the size of the average jalapeño, and are of a red/orange colour on the bush. They're among the middle of the road as far as hot peppers go, as they rate about 30,000 Scoville Heat Units when raw (depending on environmental conditions during the pepper harvest), and that gets beaten down to only about 3,000 SHUs during the sauce refinement process. This is kind of pedestrian as far as SHU ratings go, as habanero peppers generally rate between 100,000 and 350,000 SHUs, and those peppers usually retain their gargantuan ratings during sauce refinement. Nevertheless, to the average consumer, the Tabasco pepper packs enough punch. (To me, the original sauce tastes more like vinegar than pepper, and I'd venture to call it too mild to be considered a hot sauce.)

The sauce has been made on Avery Island since the McIlhennys first moved there, and it's still made by Edmund McIlhenny's descendants today. The stuff comes in five varieties, although the base ingredients for all of them are Tabasco peppers, distilled vinegar, and pure cane sugar. Slight tweaks in the manufacturing process result in the variety of products.

The complete line of Tabasco sauces consists of the following products:

  • Tabasco® Pepper Sauce

The original and flagship product of the McIlhenny Company. It has a fairly even mix of cayenne pepper and vinegar flavours. Goes good on tomato-based foods, such as pizza, most pasta entrées, and nachos, although it's pretty ineffective when used as an ingredient. Rates between 2,500 and 5,000 SHUs.

  • Tabasco® Green Pepper Sauce

I don't normally like jalapeño sauces, although this one is pretty good. It's hardly spicy at all, but it is quite tasty. Leaves a slight vinegary aftertaste. Packs a mere 600 to 1,200 SHUs.

  • Tabasco® Garlic Pepper Sauce

Quite good. You can't taste the vinegar at all; mostly it tastes like roasted garlic salsa. Goes great on Italian food. 1,200 to 1,800 SHUs.

  • Tabasco® Habanero Sauce

The best of the bunch, in my opinion. Excellent for cooking, and it goes good as a condiment on anything. Officially, it's heat level 7, which is not for the meek. It leaves a not unintense burn in your mouth for about 30 minutes, and it tastes great. One of the best habanero sauces I've ever had, which is surprising since their other products are geared primarily at non-chileheads. It's a relatively new product, too, as it first appeared on grocery store shelves in June 2003, joining the extremely small number of other habanero sauces sold in grocery stores. While it pales in comparison to the fire that Dave's Insanity Sauce brings, it's much more suited to everyday use. Only 7,000 to 8,000 SHUs, but somehow they make it work.

  • Tabasco® Chipotle Pepper Sauce

I haven't tried this one yet. As of this writing it's just arriving in grocery stores, and I tend to go for spicier wares rather that chipotle-based stuff, since chipotle is derived from jalapeño peppers. The Tabasco website describes this as primarily a meat sauce, and its dark, steak sauce-like colour seems to agree with this. 1,500 to 2,500 SHUs.

Tabasco sauce comes in a multitude of containers. The most recognisable is the 2oz bottle commonly found in grocery stores, although you'll also find 8oz bottles in restaurants and gallon bottles (!) available directly from McIlhenny.

Tabasco also produces a spicy soy sauce (with Kikkoman), which is quite good, and a myriad of other, similar products, such as spicy ketchup (released in collaboration with Heinz), spicy mustard (made together with Plochman's), shaker spices and spicy seasoning salt, spicy marinades, spicy steak sauce (via A1), spicy kosher dill pickles (with Vlasic), canned chili and SPAM™ (via Hormel), a wide variety of branded snack foods (such as Cheez-Its and Slim Jims), spicy popcorn, spicy pork rinds (ugh), Bloody Mary mix, even cinnamon jelly beans and pepper-flavoured lollipops, presumably for the more mischievous renegade school girls and anime characters.

The shape of the thin-necked bottle that Tabasco Sauce comes in is apparently a registered trademark, and it has been in use since the first commercial version of the product.

The box my bottle of Tabasco Habanero Sauce came in

Ta*bas"co sauce (?). [So named after Tabasco, a river and state of Mexico.]

A kind of very pungent sauce made from red peppers.


© Webster 1913.

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