Hot Honey Is the Spicy, Sweet Condiment You Need to Know About
Now that you've spiked everything from mayo to avocado toast with Sriracha, amped up scrambled eggs with Tabasco, and topped chicken tacos with hot sauce, it may be time to embrace hot honey, a condiment that brings the heat in the sweetest way possible—without setting your mouth aflame. Yes, other sidekicks like the fermented Korean paste gochujang and good ole barbecue sauce have walked the line between sweet and spicy for literally centuries, but hot honey, a 21st-century union of honey and chile peppers, is a unique taste sensation that seems to go with just about everything.
Infinite Pairing Possibilities
How can you unlock hot honey's flavor potential? "Drizzling it over pepperoni pizza is the top pairing, but it's also delicious on fried chicken, paired with a cheese plate, or mixed into cocktails like a spicy margarita," says Mike Kurtz, founder of the Brooklyn, New York-based Mike's Hot Honey. As the first entrepreneur to put hot honey products on the condiment map, in 2010, he's found countless uses for his product, from Brussels sprouts and Greek yogurt with granola to corn on the cob and frittatas. "It's even great drizzled over vanilla or butter pecan ice cream. The possibilities are truly endless," he says.
The Evolution of Hot Honey
The inspiration for Kurtz's delicious concoction goes back to 2003 when he was studying abroad in Brazil. While visiting a pizzeria, he noticed jars of chile pepper-infused honey on the tables. Customers were dabbling it on their pies. For Kurtz, it was love at first bite. Once back in the States, he spent six years tinkering with different chile peppers, honey varietals, and infusion techniques, sharing jars with friends and family before hitting on the perfect recipe. An early supporter was Paulie Giannone, owner of the pizzeria, Paulie Gee's, specializing in Neapolitan-style pies, who hired Kurtz as a pizza apprentice at his original Greenpoint, Brooklyn location. Enamored with the combo of hot honey on his hot soppressata pie, Giannone later christened it Hellboy on Paulie Gee's menu. Kurtz made small batches for the restaurant's use; a few months later, he started bottling and selling it.
Mike's Hot Honey was in business. "Our product contains three ingredients: honey, chiles, and vinegar. They are simple ingredients, but also very complex in their flavor profiles. We think we've found that perfect balance of sweetness and heat," says Kurtz. The line includes Mike's Hot Honey ($9.99, 121-20&linkId=470deaff8f2c2a6aae9e33784e5321de&language=en_US" title="amazon.com" context="body" sid=""/]), and the recently launched Mike's Hot Honey Extra Hot ($10.99, amazon.com).
In the Marketplace
And while Mike's Hot Honey may be singular, it no longer stands alone in this niche market. Competitors include Bushwick Kitchen, another Brooklyn venture, which makes Bee's Knees Spicy Honey ($13.99, amazon.com), and another sweet-heat product called Tree Knees Spicy Maple ($13.99, amazon.com). And there's also Red Clay Hot Sauce from South Carolina, which produces hot sauce and hot honey products, including Red Clay Hot Honey, wildflower honey infused with a habanero pepper mash ($10, amazon.com) and Red Clay Hot Honey with Honeycomb ($18, redclayhotsauce.com).
It seems that everyone from home cooks to professional chefs has developed a hankering for spicy foods and condiments, some tempered with honey, some not. Kurtz chalks it up to an awareness of other cultures beyond our own backyards. "As the world becomes more interconnected, a growing number of people are enjoying spicy foods," he says.