In 2008, friends Thomas Wessels and David Paul shared a joke about a fictitious hot sauce. That joke quickly turned into a full-scale operation: Hotlanta Hot Sauce. The goal was a hot sauce using Southern ingredients – such as peaches and Vidalia onion – with a serious kick. After four months of testing hundreds of recipes, the guys served their 10 favorite versions to 100 of their friends at a barbecue where they passed out comment cards to measure the response. The recipe that won was also the guys' No. 1 pick. So they bottled it up, and started pounding the pavement.
Hotlanta's flavor is reminiscent of Cholula with a fruity twist. Instead of being cloying, the peaches and Vidalia onion add a subtle sweetness to counteract the complex heat provided by the mix of chiles – fresh habanero for a tangier spice, and dried chile de arbol for a strong yet not overpowering smokiness. The sauce has a nice, whole mouthfeel and looks like a fresh puree instead of your standard separated liquids and solids.
Local restaurants have quickly embraced Hotlanta. The Vortex has bottles of Hotlanta on its tables; Front Page News serves wings using a dressing made with Hotlanta. Fans aren't limited to locals. Hotlanta took second place in the medium hot sauce category at the 2010 Scovie Awards in Albuquerque, N.M.
Even though the boys have admirable and cool day jobs – Wessels works with special needs kids, and Paul is a producer at Primary Pictures, a film and video production company – they've got their sights set on more hot sauces. Look for a green sauce and a chipotle-based super-hot sauce in the future.
Hotlanta Hot Sauce is available at local stores such as Savor and Sevananda for a starting price of $4.04 (get it?). You can also buy online at www.hotlantahotsauce.com.