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Hot Sauce Tasting Room Featuring Spice Sommeliers Opening in Williamsburg

By Serena Dai | February 25, 2015 2:20pm | Updated on February 27, 2015 8:04pm
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WILLIAMSBURG — Get ready to sweat.

A hot sauce tasting room dedicated to little-known concoctions from around the world is opening in Williamsburg this spring.

Gourmet hot sauce company Heatonist successfully funded its $18,000 Kickstarter this week to open a retail storefront on Wythe Avenue, where locals can try hot sauces from around the world with the guidance of hot sauce "sommeliers."

The company plans to offer 150 all-natural sauces from 50 different up-and-coming hot sauce makers, said Heatonist founder Noah Chaimberg.

A bar manned by the sommeliers will be set up for tastings, while the sauces for sale will be accompanied by a placard noting the origin, ingredients and a recommended food pairing, he said.

 Heatonist founder Noah Chaimberg is opening a hot sauce tasting room in Williamsburg.
Heatonist founder Noah Chaimberg is opening a hot sauce tasting room in Williamsburg.
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Some of sauces won't be super spicy, with the focus more on flavor.

The bottles' spice levels will be ranked from zero to 10, with zero meaning the sauce has no heat and 10 meaning the sauce was made with peppers like the Carolina Reaper, Chaimberg said.

"The key for us is that we only carry sauces that get their heat directly from peppers," he explained. "Nothing from extract. We don’t carry any sauces that add heat without flavor."

Chaimberg has been selling hot sauces since 2013, both online and at local markets like the Brooklyn Night Bazaar and the Greenpointers market.

He and others hot sauce curators at Heatonist taste the sauces made by new producers and judge them using eight factors, including heat, sweetness, smokiness, saltiness and adventurousness.

They started the company by scouring message boards and food blogs to find the best sauces, Chaimberg said. But as Heatonist has grown, others also began sending them sauces.

That means sometimes rare sauces end up in Chaimberg's hands, like one made from ghost peppers grown on a remote island in the Celtic Sea and another made from peppers grown by community farmers in Swaziland.

Once a hot sauce becomes popular enough to be stocked at places like Whole Foods, Heatonist will replace it in the store with a newer, smaller brand, he explained.

"We keep rotating the selection to keep things fresh," Chaimberg said. "We like to work with makers who are starting out and not really available in this area."

Visitors to the tasting room, which will open on April 18, can either come in with an idea of which sauce they want to try or tell the sommelier which sort of flavor or food pairing they want.

Bottle prices will range from $6 to $14 for more limited editions from overseas.

Chaimberg declined to give a specific address for the space, only noting that the room will be near the Brooklyn Brewery and Wythe Hotel. He did note he has a signed lease for the space.

Beyond buying and tasting, Chaimberg said he hopes the space will become a community hub for foodies, hot sauce lovers and budding entreprenuers in the area.

He plans to host "Meet the Maker" events, in which hot sauce manufacturers talk about their process and to encourage people to think about where their food comes from.

"It's more than a store," he said. "What we’re looking to do is be a place where people can gather around spiciness."