I Paid: $10.99 for a sampler pack of four 2-ounce bottles (prices may vary by region)
Although Big Papi hot sauce boasts about being en fuego, it’s more sort of moderately spicy-o. Disappointing for the millions of heat-addicted, bhut-jolokia-licking morons out there, but a welcome decision for those of us who like hot sauce to accentuate and complement rather than stomp all over our food. One thing can be said with certainty: The sauces step up in heat perceptibly and accurately. On a 1-to-10 scale of hotness, the Original variety charts about a 3, Monster Double is a 4 or 5, Off the Wall Triple is closer to a 6, and Grand Slam is a solid 7, with a sting of real heat, a lingering burn, but nothing a seasoned Thai, Indian, or Tex-Mex food eater can’t weather without complaint.
In no case does the heat completely overpower the flavor, but the same can’t be said of the garlic; in Monster Double it’s strong enough that if you splashed some on a toasted baguette you’d have an instantly respectable loaf of garlic bread. Original has a cane sugar– and carrot-imparted sweetness that might play well with shrimp or crab. The Triple is aggressively peppery and vinegar-loaded, a tough, sour customer as far as hot sauces go; it could hold its head high in a potato, bacon, and egg breakfast scramble. And the multipepper roar of Off the Wall would work nicely as a backnote to chili or red sauce.
The bottle’s hype suggests that it’s “not just a hot sauce, it’s a lifestyle. En Fuego goes with everything from food to drinks to cooking ingredient—it’s a way of life.” Overstated, but not ridiculous: One or more of these sauces could easily do double duty in a Bloody Mary or other spice-assisted libation, but great works of hot sauce art these are not. Each one makes a fairly conventional and straightforward statement, which means the line as a whole works well. Big Papi has not shamed himself or his fans.