Call & Times

Sold-out Old Bay hot sauce lives up to hype

- Emily Heil

Getting one’s mitts on a bottle of Old Bay hot sauce, a new product the company debuted last week, is a feat akin to scoring primo Coachella tickets.

The limited-edition sauce turned into a viral sensation when demand for the condiment crashed the company’s website and sold out in 30 minutes, a representa­tive tells us.

It can be done. Actress/writer/social media powerhouse Mindy Kaling was able to land some by tweeting at the company and to her nearly 12 million followers. And there are bottles available on eBay for those willing to pay a substantia­l markup.

Even though the spice blend, in its signature old-school taxi-yellow tin, has long enjoyed cult status (apparently, Old Bay tattoos are a thing?), the reaction stunned even the Maryland-based spice maker, the company told The Washington Post in an email. “We especially hadn’t anticipate­d such a huge online order response on day one,” a company representa­tive said. “Old Bay is most commonly bought in retail stores, so while we made some hot sauce available for purchase through our site, we thought the big buzz would occur [in February] when product hits stores.”

But folks, we were able to do the near-impossible: We have the goods. When the company sent us a sample, we promptly whipped up two batches of wings to test the new condiment against the classic Frank’s RedHot.

The verdict?

Old Bay and hot sauce make for a good combo – like J-Lo and Shakira good. From the moment it landed on my desk, it was practicall­y love at first sight for this Eastern Shore native: The bottle’s label mimics the iconic tins, and the contents looked appealing, with flecks of spice evident amid the rust-colored sauce. Similar in consistenc­y to other hot sauces of its ilk, it melded with butter for the wings’ bath.

As much as we love Franks, the Old Bay wings disappeare­d first. The flavor, with the signature hits of paprika and celery salt, was far more complex than Frank’s, which compared with the new guy, all of a sudden seemed like a vinegary one-note tune. It was salty – though it contains slightly less sodium than Frank’s – and while it doesn’t contain sugar, it also had a pleasantly sweet note, which one taster suggested could come from a “warm baking spice” in the top-secret blend. The heat level was comparable to Frank’s, though our tasters thought the aforementi­oned complexity made Frank’s seem hotter in comparison. “There’s just more going on with the old Bay – in a good way,” one tester said.

We imagined all the other ways we might use it – on eggs, in Bloody Marys and “just with a spoon,” per one taster.

It won the heart of our resident Old Bay expert, nightlife and drinks reporter Fritz Hahn, a Maryland native who has written about Old Bay beer, Old Bay vodka, Old Bay Bloody Mary mix and Old Bay pork rinds. “This is truly a delight,” he raved.

So when the company restocks, which it says could happen as soon as the end of this week, it could be worth snagging a bottle to add to your hot-sauce arsenal – provided, of course, that you like the spice blend in its original form.

Turns out, you can teach Old Bay new tricks.

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