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A hot sauce is any spicy condiment sauce made with vinegar and chile peppers (fruits from plants of the genus Capsicum), or the extract of chiles. The most famous brand of hot sauce sold in the United States is Tabasco sauce.
Various types of hot sauces are a common ingredient in Mexican and Cajun cuisine. They are also very typical in Asian cuisines, including Vietnamese and Thai.
The heat (or burning) felt when consuming hot sauce is caused by capsaicin. The burning sensation is not "real" in the sense that damage is being wrought on the tissues of the mouth (or whatever mucous membrane is being affected, should a person be so unfortunate as to get hot sauce in their eye or forget to wash their hands before touching other orifices). In fact, it is merely a harmless chemical reaction with the body's neurological system.
The seemingly subjective perceived heat of hot sauces can be measured by the Scoville Scale.
The hottest hot sauce scientifically possible is one rated at 16,000,000 Scoville units, which makes it pure capsaicin.
Examples of hot sauces marketed as achieving this level of heat are Blair's 6am Reserve (due to production variances, it's up to 16 million Scoville units) and Blair's 16 Million Reserve (which is noted as 'for display/novelty only') marketed by Blair's Sauces & Snacks. By comparison, Tabasco sauce is rated between 2,500 and 5,000 Scoville units (batches vary).
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