The hot sauce market is stacked with thousands of brands trying to win over your taste buds and into your pantry, but few have roots right here in Fairfield County. Cue Hot Lady Hot Sauce, created by Adam Colberg, a Connecticut resident who grew up in Westport.
For Colberg, hot sauce wasn’t always in his overall plan.
“Before I graduated from Staples High School, I always embarked on different projects, I always did things differently,” he said. “I wasn’t ready for college, but I wanted to do something adventurous, so I joined the Marines.” His time in the corps, where he was a jet mechanic, granted him the opportunity to travel the world, including a tour in Spain.
After his service time, this veteran of the Persian Gulf War got into another line of work as a result of his training. “My time in the Marines got me interested in martial arts and boxing,” he said.
It was then that he embarked on a martial arts journey, earning multiple black belts, but it was boxing that he was most passionate about. Along the way, he trained fighters at the famous Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn and he went on to coach former lightweight champion Vivian Harris and was the boxing coach for mixed martial arts fighters like Daniel and Neiman Gracie.
He also taught boxing to those who weren’t pro fighters. That’s where the early groundwork for Hot Lady was forged. “I used to train a guy who was the creator of Bobo’s Pasta Sauce and he asked me where I saw myself 10 years out while I warmed him up,” he said. “I felt like he was giving me a therapy session. I said, ‘I’m growing hot peppers.’ He said, ‘What are you going to do with those peppers?’ I said, ‘I’ll bottle it as a hot sauce and call it Hot Lady.’”
Whether it was just casual conversation or not, when his client passed away, it struck a chord with Colberg. Deep down, he knew that life as a trainer—though he’s still actively doing it—couldn’t be sustained for the long haul, so that conversation led to a year-long process to make his hot sauce dream a reality. “I wanted to make a hot sauce for the everyday person, something that would be attractive to the person that doesn’t like the hottest sauce on the block,” he said.
Colberg spent that year tinkering with secret pepper combinations at home to make it hot, but not overly so. He wanted his recipe to focus on a deep pepper flavor with some sweetness, almost no bitterness, and a balanced pH level.
After all the hot sauce research, recipe tweaking, and consultations, he settled on what’s now being bottled and sold locally. Along with his nephew and business partner Lucas Acuna Jr.—who handles the creative side of things and acts as Hot Lady’s marketing director—they hope to take the sauce to a national level.
Soon, Hot Lady will add a second sauce to its repertoire called “Sting.” It promises to be slightly spicier than Tabasco, but it won’t deviate too far from the flavor of the flagship.
Currently, you can pick up Hot Lady at The Angry Pepper in Monroe or in Morton Williams Supermarkets in New York City, but if you’re not about the in-person shopping experience, you can cop it online.
And some local restaurants have already taken notice. The Note uses it to dress their deep-fried cauliflower “wings;” Redding Ridge Market dashes it on a fried chicken sandwich; and it’s available as a condiment at Washington Prime, Local Kitchen & Beer Bar, 55 Wine Bar & Wood Grille, Super Duper Weenie, and it’s on the tables at Tequila Revolución. To boot, Hot Lady even received a shout-out from Snoop Dogg on Martha Stewart’s Instagram account.
And if you’re wondering about the name, Colberg always viewed the Hot Lady “character” as a mysterious figure that represents everything good in life, and as a brand that encourages passion, hard work, the pursuit of dreams, and much like himself, that anything is possible for anyone from any walk of life.
“My adventurous lifestyle helped me bring creativity into boxing training,” he said. “Now I’m expressing creativity through hot sauce.”