When a bottle of Gringo Bandito hot sauce landed on my desk, I ordered it deported to the dump. Created by Offspring vocalist Dexter Holland, everything about the sauce screams clueless gabacho. The sauce's name, of course. The sauce's logo: the blond, fair-skinned Holland bedecked in bandoliers, revolvers, sombreros and shades, a mock-up of the Tapatío man. The sauce's promotional pictures on its website—Gringo Bandito superimposed on the Virgin of Guadalupe, standing next to a Chihuahua statue, being poured on an unsuspecting drunk—look like slides from a frat-boy visit to Puerto Vallarta. And the testimonials on Gringo's website—Wil Francis of the Seattle band Aiden says, "Damn, that's fuckin' good shit," while Holland's band mate Noodles enthuses, "Damn, that shit is hot, yo!"—sound like a field guide to the bros of Huntington Beach.
My Mexican nationalist psyche told me Gringo Bandito was an affront to Mexican culture on the level of Cabo Wabo or Nativo Lopez or the "¡Ask a Mexican!" column that runs in this very paper. But the friend who left the bottle on my desk—a wab, no less—swore I would like the hot sauce if I dropped my defensiveness and tried the damn thing. Still doubting, I opened the bottle, arched my neck, and chugged from the bottle. I swirled it around my mouth. Then swallowed. The wab was right: Gringo Bandito is bueno.
Forgive my prejudices, Dexter, and let me now sing your praises: Gringo Bandito is one of the best gabacho-made hot sauces invented; it should play well even in SanTana.
Beyond the stereotypes and bro-centered campaign, Gringo Bandito succeeds because Holland understands the components of a great hot sauce. Primary amongst them are consistency and heat, and Gringo Bandito excels at each. The sauce is slightly thick, allowing it to fill your mouth without overstaying its welcome and napalming your tongue. Don't get me wrong: most gabachos will find Gringo Bandito hotter than a cast-iron stove. But the biggest sin many non-Mexican hot sauces commit is when they substitute hell for subtlety. Gringo Bandito muffles the heat enough so that its flavor takes precedence. Specks of pepper and chile seeds float in the hot sauce, each waiting to spring its own unique spice jolts. And the flavor is robust, not too vinegary or sour like too many hot sauces.
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A great hot sauce must also be versatile, and Gringo Bandito also passes this test. I used it to spruce up all of my leftovers—reheated pasta, fresh pinto beans, quesadillas, twice-warmed pizza, even the meatball sub a co-worker just placed on my desk.
I tried the hot sauce on some of the recipes on Gringo Bandito's website and found them all delicious—while the ghetto pizza is little more than a joke (toast melted with cheese, spaghetti sauce and a sprinkling of oregano), the enchiladas especiales feature a complicated, rewarding recipe more appropriate for a Rick Bayless cookbook. In any case, Gringo Bandito complements the other ingredients, never overwhelming them as hot sauces generally do.
Ultimately, Gringo Bandito hot sauce is not just a great condiment but also a compliment. It says a lot about the present and future of Orange County that Holland—the epitome of blond, spiky-haired Orange County—decided to get into the hot sauce business. He doesn't pretend to be better than Mexicans: one of the promotional pictures features Gringo Bandito on an Olympic-style medal stand, finishing ahead of Tabasco and Crystals hot sauce—both American. All Holland wants to do, as each Gringo Bandito bottle states, is produce "a party in your mouth." And, brother, does he.
GRINGO BANDITO HOT SAUCE IS AVAILABLE AT WWW.GRINGOBANDITO.COM.