I’ve tried pitching a hot sauce Co-Op in The Inventory’s Slack room, but it always seems to fall on deaf ears. Turns out, that’s fine. While I love learning what our readers think is the best of the best, with hot sauce I now realize, I don’t need to hear it. That’s because Secret Aarvdark Habanero Hot Sauce, which is objectively already wildly popular and deserves the praise, is the perfect hot sauce. You need it on everything. Now. So for anyone who isn’t yet in on the secret, this is for you.
I experienced Secret Aardvark for the first time a couple of years ago when it popped up at a New York bar out of nowhere, and I remember it transforming a run-of-the-mill burger into an excellent burger, but the excitement was mostly washed away by several beers over the course of that night. Then I got hit with it randomly visiting a couple different cities, both times it was immediately recognizable. But even then, because the encounters were so sporadic, I never thought about tracking the hot sauce down. Big mistake, it’s right there on Amazon.
And then again, just as the memory was ready to fade, that nostalgic condiment squeeze bottle, with the friendly blue aardvark, cozied up to my table during one of my first meals after moving to Portland. I was elated to have it back, and even happier when I realized that this is where Secret Aardvark Trading Company is based, meaning there’s nary a bar, restaurant, or grocery store without it. Though it is worth noting some infamous stories here about it being stolen with such frequency that many spots now hold bottles behind the counter or keep them mostly empty to deter thieves. That’s some misguided love. But for me, I’d no longer have to savor the rare tease; I could make it a staple in my life.
The flavor really is unique, and it’s balanced perfectly with the heat (with a consistency similar to Sriracha). Their description is apt, but broad, calling it a Caribbean/Tex-Mex hybrid. Two of the main ingredients are tomato and carrot, which give it a solid sweetness as a base that eases into a touch of vinegar (but much less so than Tabasco), before hitting that delicious habanero heat. The flavor comes from some combination of garlic and mustard seed, mystery herbs and spices, and hints of cumin to round it out. The heat, as you’d expect, comes on more and more with each serving, but it’s not a one-bite scorcher, it’s truly an additive flavor that can be used throughout the meal.
With Secret Aardvark, that child’s order of cheese and pepperoni pizza just became dynamic, the weak salsa you’re dipping in now has some kick, and the stir fry that was lacking an identity has a real flavor profile. Throw it on your hummus, add it to your marinade, spice up your sandwich, and make your eggs come alive. Seriously, it’s good on everything, and has a way of feeling endemic to any regional or international cuisine it’s added to. Honestly, your eyes would be lucky to get a rubbing by fingers stained with Secret Aardvark.
Buy a bottle, or better yet a 3-pack. Hell, get the case of 12 and give your friends a new fun vice. Even here, they cost about $7 to buy at the store, so Amazon’s prices are pretty reasonable if you can’t source your Secret Aardvark locally. Try some of their other flavors too. You won’t regret it.