BY JORDAN LAHAYE
Vinegar. Salt. Red Peppers. The trifecta, tried and true, of Louisiana hot sauce giants Tabasco, Louisiana, and Crystal has added a dash of heat and intrigue into the gumbos, jambalayas, regular old hamburgers, and just about everything else served in the Bayou State for more than a century now.
But what happens when you add a shot of bourbon to the bottle?
“It’s my sneaky rebellion on Louisiana hot sauce,” said Scott Bellina, New Orleans native and founder of the newest line of small batch Louisiana hot sauces, Bayou Gotham. The Ruby Rebelle, one of four sauces debuting this spring, draws on the risqué heat of New Orleans’ Storyville, a “sultry tryst in a Bourbon Cayenne Hot Sauce.”
Bestowing such colorful narratives upon each of his culturally infused concoctions, Bellina—who is the great nephew of Crystal Hot Sauce founder Alvin Baumer—hopes to tap into the nuances of Louisiana cuisine, including the influences of Caribbean, Creole, and Voodoo cultures. And as a twenty-year transplant to Manhattan Island, he is coming at it informed by the rich perspective of nostalgia.
In addition, Bellina said that Bayou Gotham is a product that, like himself, belongs simultaneously to two of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world. “I recently learned that all of my immigrant ancestors entered the United States from either New York Harbor or New Orleans,” he said. “It’s visceral, the way these places both feel so much like home to me.
“I always say that New York City is my heart, and New Orleans is my soul. Bayou Gotham is a byproduct of my constant state of being in both places at the same time, of wanting to share each with the people living in the other.”
While Bellina’s Bayou Gotham line—which features sometimes surprising elixirs like the JuJu Guru blend of green jalapeños and pineapple—celebrates the idiosyncrasies of his hometown, he is also currently developing a Gotham Bayou line, which will serve as a tribute to the vibrant neighborhoods of Manhattan.
“It really just comes back to my identity,” said Bellina. “Everyone comes back to a point in life where you are putting yourself into the universe. I think that when people cook, they give themselves, their history. And taking that, being welcome and open to change and diversity, while simultaneously offering an homage to specific traditions—it’s awesome.”
Bellina’s first sauce, the one that spurred his ambition to start Bayou Gotham, came out of a particular sort of diaspora. “All this time in New York, there are two things I’ll never get used to—the arctic winters and missing out on crawfish season.
“So what if I made a hot sauce that tasted exactly like a crawfish boil?”
Thus, the Bayou Bourré—a distillation of all the boil fixin’s, including cayenne, crab boil, celery, garlic, onions, citrus, potatoes, sweet corn. A crawfish boil in a bottle.
“You just can’t get to a hot sauce that tastes like crawfish unless you were born in Louisiana, you leave, and then you’re missing it.”