For me, hot sauce is about much more than just heat. I think we have all tried a sauce which absolutely brutalized our mouths yet tasted horrible or had no flavor at all. Hot sauce indeed walks a fine line between taste and spice. It’s almost like an art form in itself— getting it right. I get an adrenaline rush from spicy foods. I love them. I’ll eat anything. But as much as I like a good sweat, if you cannot deliver on flavor, I will not be purchasing the product again. After all, hot sauce is a condiment. It’s a supporting cast member meant to enhance a dish, not ruin it or completely take over. For something which seems so simple, it’s a rather difficult execution. Enter Gringo Bandito.
I enjoyed each of the three samples I have tried so far: regular, green, and super hot. Each one I can envision having a distinct use when it comes to dousing my food with it. For now, I just poured it onto a chip so I could taste the pure flavor. The green (Serrano and Habanero peppers) caught my attention first. I’m not usually a fan, but this one was unique. The notes of vinegar were there, and it was more earthy in nature than almost all of the other hot sauces I’ve tried over the years. Maybe it’s just me, but I found it to be on the milder side, perfect for someone who cannot have a more intense level of heat. The bite was just enough to let you know it was there.
Next came the regular, which would be awesome on pizza (yes, I’m one of those people). The peppers featured in this one were Habanero, Jalapeno, and Red Japanese Chili. The flavor is tasty yet understated at the same time. It’s not overpowering, which is a common theme here. Another differentiation between these sauces and others which dominate the market is the lower amount of salt in Gringo Bandito. The brand boasts having around 70% less, and you can actually feel that when you eat it. The salt does not linger on the tongue, nor make you overly thirsty. Out of the three samples, milligrams of sodium per teaspoon ranged from 25 to 60, which is microscopic when you consider some of the big brands out there regularly top 200, and some way beyond that.
As Dexter notes in the interview below, Gringo Bandito can be seen as a “healthy” hot sauce. Aside from being low in sodium, there are no preservatives added. The fact that each bottle contains less than 10 ingredients is a testament to how they are more of a natural hot sauce. And we all know the benefits of spicy food, including an increase in metabolism and antioxidants which can fight cancer, among other maladies.
Lastly, I tried the super hot label. This was as advertised, but again, not totally overpowering. It walked that line I mentioned earlier. Good flavor and an angry kick (thanks to some Scorpion and Jolokia peppers). My friend and I both tried it at the same time, and the symptoms were identical: there is a few-second delay before you feel anything, and then it hits both your tongue and throat. It’s not exactly soothing, but that’s what you would want from a sauce like this. I can see myself covering some shrimp tacos in this stuff and suffering with a smile.
The founder of Gringo Bandito is actually the world-renown singer Dexter Holland from the multi-platinum band “The Offspring”. Each label of hot sauce includes a note from him saying that the bottle is like a “party in your mouth”. The Gringo Bandito in question on the label is actually a rendering of himself. This is a guy that likes to have fun, both on the stage and off it. He also earned a PHD in molecular biology just a couple of months ago, rounding off what has been an interesting and impressive career and life. I had a chance to interview Dexter for this posting. The transcript is below.
GC: As a successful musician who lives a busy life, what prompted you to create your own brand of hot sauce?
DH: I’ve always had a love for the Mexican culture especially Mexican food. I enjoy so many types of hot sauce that it was just natural that I wanted to try to create my own.
GC: What goes into selecting the types of peppers and ingredients that are used in Gringo Bandito?
DH: Every pepper has its unique taste so I worked on making the sauce taste as authentic as possible. I used only fresh peppers and ingredients to create my sauces which makes them stand out from the rest.
GC: For me, spice and hot sauces have always been used to bring food to another level of flavor. What do you say to people who do not use hot sauces or are scared to try them? Which one of yours would be good for a novice?
DH: All of our sauces have a medium heat level which is consumer friendly for the most part. Our main goal is to add flavor to your dish instead of burning your tongue and not being able to taste your meal. We tell people to start off with our Original Red, move up to the Green, and if you enjoy the heat you should try our Super Hot. Gringo Bandito is all natural, contains very low sodium and doesn’t have any preservatives so it’s a very healthy hot sauce.
GC: What is the hottest food you have ever eaten?
DH: Carne Asada tacos down in Baja, Mexico. We stopped at a taco stand on the side of the road past Ensenada and the salsa that they had on the tables was insanely hot. I still finished the tacos though, of course.
GC: Finally, if you had the chance for a last meal—anything in the world—what would you choose to eat?
DH: Wow, that’s a tough one! I would say it would be a pollo asada burrito with a side of chips, salsa, and fresh guacamole. Also, a Pacifico with lime to wash it all down.
I would like to thank Dexter for taking the time for me to conduct this interview with him. It truly was an honor. I also highly recommend Gringo Bandito to the hot sauce lover in your life. Snag a few bottles—you won’t be sorry.