To any grown adult with respectable taste buds, Sriracha hot sauce, and finely-aged whiskey are high on the list of life's finest flavors. So for the two to collide into one mouth-watering mashup seems beyond sensible, but inevitable. Yet it wasn't until Bay Area sauce maker, Sosu recently released its Barrel-Aged Sriracha that such a product finally arrived on shelves. What pours out of the jar is as delightful as you'd expect. The only puzzling part of all this was why it took so long to get into my life.
[jump] Lisa Murphy takes her sauce seriously. Before launching Sosu in 2013, the East Bay native spent time in Southeast Asia, exploring the kitchens and cuisines of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. When she returned to California, Murphy equipped her kitchen with more than just the fresh, organic ingredients of the Golden State, she had gathered the expertise to apply creatively apply them in way that could pay homage and preserve the authenticity of a distant cultural legacy.
Many cuisines of Asia have long relied upon fermentation to deliver fuller flavors to the plate. So for Murphy, applying the process to Sriracha seemed like a no-brainer. A simple blend of chili peppers, brown sugar, garlic, and salt are mashed and brought to used whiskey barrels, where it rests in oak for up to three months. What emerges is something so complex and inviting, it accomplishes a stunning feat: it renders regular Sriracha bland by comparison. The barreling casts the formidable heat of the sauce under a slight shadow of caramelized vanilla, forcing the tongue to contemplate both sweet and spice. A viscous body and mouthfeel enables it equal merit as a dipping sauce (for raw veggies and smoked meats), as well as a cooking sauce to add flair to noodle dishes and marinades. However it's applied, a good Old Fashioned or Manhattan cocktail will fit right at home with whatever hits the dish.
Sosu is still a small company, handcrafted and batched in limited quantity. Fortunately for Bay Area spice junkies, much of that allotment remains here, not far from where it was born. Although 9 oz. jars typically retail for around $8-10 — roughly 4 times the cost of the traditional Sriracha — it remains somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 times more flavorful. Whether or not that's a tradeoff worth making is between you and your god.