Vinegar Breakdown

Vinegar Breakdown

Purpose of this Guide

You are thinking of getting real hot and saucy and it’s got you wondering the best way to accomplish that…

Well this guide is here to help you find your fix by walking you through the fundamentals of how to make your own sauce and also give some insight into our creative process over here at Alcazar Heat.

This guide is broken into three parts and

Fundamentals of a Hot Sauce

  • Pepper

  • Acid

  • Other Flavors and Ingredients

What is Vinegar?

According to the ol’wikipedia Vinegar is: an aqueous solution of acetic acid and trace chemicals that may include flavorings. Vinegar typically contains 5–8% acetic acid by volume. Usually the acetic acid is produced by the fermentation of ethanol or sugars by acetic acid bacteria.1

Cool, cool, cool….I don’t really know what all that means besides Vinegar is an acidic watery substance, which I knew from having frequently tasted vinegar in my lifetime. Beyond the text book definition, I’ve learned that vinegar is incredibly diverse in the ingredients and methods of production that are used produce numerous varieties of ‘aqueous solution of acetic acid’.

Why is it useful in hot sauce?

Two main reasons we often find Vinegar in hot sauce:

  1. Preservation

  2. Flavor

Vinegar helps make your hot sauce last a long and not kill you from toxins

According to the regulations regarding acidified foods, an acidified food is a low acid food to which acids or acid foods are added so that the final product has 1) a pH less than 4.6 and 2) a water activity above 0.85 (more on water activity later).2

What is so special about pH 4.6? it helps prevent Botulism A.K.A C. botulinum, which we’ve learned through our better process control school3 is a nasty M***er F**cker which can survive even in boiling water. So, by having a high level of acid in your hot sauce, most commonly achieved through the use of vinegar, you are able to achieve a PH of below 4.6 which helps prevent you from dieing from botulism and also means that your hot sauce should last for months in the fridge (or maybe even on the shelf but for liability reasons we can’t out right say that).


Vinegar helps make your hot sauce delicious

Acid balances flavor.Anything that tastes sour is a source of acid, yet on its own, acid isn't particularly gratifying.  It's the way acid contrasts with other tastes that heightens our pleasure in foods. Salt, fat, sugar, bitterness and starch all invariably benefit from the welcome contrast acid provides.4

Our assumption is that if you’re reading this blog post that you’re probably a foodie on some basic level, which leads us to recommend the excellent Netflix show and book SALT, ACID, FAT, HEAT by the v. cool Samin Nosrat. The basic concept Norsat breaks down is for approaching cooking from the four elements of:

Salt, which enhances flavor; Fat, which delivers flavor and generates texture; Acid, which balances flavor; and Heat, which ultimately determines the texture of food

In the case of making hot sauce, we take an almost Bahuas inspired approach of form before function5 in that first the vinegar provides function (helps achieve a PH below 4.6) and we then seek to make a beautiful end product (play with flavor) that still retains/does not sacrifice the original function. In is in flavor, that the type of vinegar we use becomes more important as all of them can help achieve a low pH but some will work better than others from a flavor perspective depending on your desired end result with your sauce.

When would I use different types of Vinegar?

There are many, many, many different types of vinegar6, but for the purpose of this guide we’ll only be covering the usual suspects of:

  1. White Vinegar (the OG)

  2. Apple Cider Vinegar (my man)

  3. White Wine Vinegar (White vinegar more sophisticated)

  4. Rice Wine Vinegar (East meets West)

  5. Red Wine Vinegar (when in Rome)

  6. Malt Vinegar (Fish and chips, yes please)

White Vinegar

This is the workhorse of vinegar, an absolute bell cow that can do almost anything you ask of it. Usually produced from a grain alcohol similar to vodka, white vinegar usually has a very neutral taste that works well as a foundation for other ingredients to shine through in a hot sauce.

White Vinegar is also an amazing Eco-friendly cleaning product



We like it for the clean punch of acid in can bring without bringing other flavors of its own. For example, if you’re looking to do a more Louisiana or Tabasco style sauce that is basically just the classics of pepper, vinegar, and salt, white vinegar will do a great job.

A few bonus are that white vinegar is the cheapest vinegar to use and also makes an amazing Eco-friendly cleaning product.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Made from apple cider as one might deduce from the name, this vinegar definitely has a distinct sweetness to it, especially if using something like Braggs7.

We think this vinegar works well to help add some depth to a hot sauce and can be added alongside white vinegar in order to not over power the sauce with the distinct apple cider flavor. Also works great in complementing sweeter sauces that might be using fruit.

White Wine Vinegar

Another vinegar whose name gives away its origin, white wine vinegar reflects it’s origins in white wine by tending to be a light and more delicate flavored vinegar. It’s balanced flavors between sweet and sour can be played with alongside other vinegar’s to find the perfect balance for a sauce you might have in mind.

Rice Wine Vinegar

The people in the vinegar naming department have clearly shown they are not big fans of creative naming when it comes to different types of vinegar whose name makes it pretty clear what the origin of the vinegar is.

Having a very delicate flavor Rice Wine vinegar is very versatile. Out of all vinegar, it probably has the mildest flavor. Sweet and not overwhelming. The flavor can be distinctly Asian as it is often used in many Asian cuisines. This makes it excellent for riffing on sauces inspired by flavors of the east.

Red Wine Vinegar

Like it’s namesake, red wine vinegar is derived from red wine8. Relative to it’s counterpart, white wine vinegar, is a sweeter flavor and slightly less acidic in taste. Despite, being sweeter and less acidic, red wine packs a bit more flavor in it and can work well paired hearty flavors like you would pair a meal with a wine. Also, fantastic paired with a little oil on an italiean hero (sub, hoagie, sandwich, whatever you call it in your backwater).

Malt Vinegar

Last on our least because it’s probably the least often used vinegar, espcially in hot sauce. Generally, I’ve only used this vinegar when I’m scarfing down some fish and chips. Overall, the flavor of Malt Vinegar is often described and nutty and toasty and can be used in some unique ways in a hot sauce if maybe paired with another base like white vinegar.

Alternatives to Vinegar in Hot Sauce

You don’t necessarily have to use vinegar in your hot sauce in order to achieve a low pH. For example you could use lime or lemon juice exclusively.









Better process control school





Bahuas form before function



List of vinegar (In order of color from clear to black)

  • Distilled White Vinegar (Sharp and Pungent)

  • Cane Vingear (Mellow and Fresh)

  • White Wine Vinegar (Sweet and Mild)

  • Champagne Vinegar (Effervescent and Sweet)

  • Rice Viengar (Sweet and Delicate)

  • Apple Cider Vinegar (Tart and Fruity)

  • Raisin Vinegar (Soft and Mild)

  • Apricot Vinegar (Fruity and Complex)

  • Sherry Vinegar (Pungent and Nutty)

  • Malt Vinegar (Toasty and Rich)

  • Beer Vinegar (Nutty and Complex)

  • Red Vinegar (Tart and Salty)

  • Red Wine Vinegar (Crisp and Sweet)

  • Balsamic Vinegar (Zesty and Mild)

  • Black Vinegar (Earthy and Smoky)





Bob Marley


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