While the puns that one could make upon discovering that the frontman for The Offspring also happens to also be a successful hot sauce entrepreneur are virtually endless, we'll spare you most of them, except one.
Dexter Holland's hot sauce is, indeed, pretty fly for a white guy's.
Gringo Bandito is about to celebrate the sale of its one millionth bottle, and while the sauce is mostly made of habanero chiles and ripe, red jalapeños, it has more flavor than lip-burning heat. It captures that wonderful brightness and acidity that comes in many chiles, but as Holland put it, it's still "easy on the pooper." (Sorry.) It's already been proclaimed one of the best hot sauces to come out of California by even the most critical of hot sauce aficionados, and we wouldn't be surprised if it ends up having a permanent spot in your home pantry, since it's great on just about everything.
We called Holland on a sunny Thursday afternoon in Southern California to find out how the hell he got in the hot sauce business, what The Offspring's version of a Gringo Bandito theme song would sound like, and why you should give his sombrero-emblazoned hot sauce an honest shot.
MUNCHIES: Hi, Dexter. How did you go from singing in an influential punk rock band to making hot sauces? Dexter Holland: It was just something that seemed cool. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I grew up in Southern California and Hispanic culture is part of how I was raised. I love Mexican food and I love hot sauce, so one day I thought, Hey—I should try making one! It turns out that making a good hot sauce is a lot harder than you might think.
Then again, "Do something that you like and don't worry about [whether] you know how to do it or not" has always been my philosophy. I mean, when we started The Offspring, none of us even had instruments. We just thought it would be fun to start a band. It's kind of the same with hot sauce. There wasn't much information on how to make your own hot sauce out there when I first started 12 years ago, so it took me two years to come up with the recipe.
This is a full-on DIY outfit. I developed the first recipe myself and we bottle it ourselves, I didn't just lend my name to a product. It's more fun this way. It's punk rock.
Do you cook much at home? I make stuff in the crockpot: enchiladas, tortilla soup, and things like that. That's as far as I go.
What's the story behind your hot sauce's name? In Spanish, the word "bandito" doesn't exist, but I just thought that added to the gringo vibe of the hot sauce. I just wanted to fuck things up a little bit. I mean, it's definitely fair to say that I'm a gringo and I'm about as white as you can be. But I just have a real affection for Latin culture. The name is self-deprecating.
Would you ever write an Offspring song inspired by your hot sauce? You know, I've thought about writing a song named "Gringo Bandito" but that sort of thing is a little tricky. It's hard to write about things that you love without being cheesy. I don't want to be too cheesy or the song to be dumb and just have the lyrics be, "I love hot sauce! I love hot sauce!"
How would you describe the flavor of the hot sauce? I wanted a hot sauce that wasn't just hot. I wanted it to taste good. When people get into the hot sauce business, they get competitive. Like, they want to have the hottest hot sauce to prove that they can take the heat. For me, it was flavor over heat. My hot sauce is probably just a little less hot than Tabasco, so you can definitely handle it. The greatest compliment I ever got was from Gustavo Arellano of OC Weekly. He said that my hot sauce never overpowers anything; it only adds to the flavor of things.
Once a year, we do a private reserve label with a special batch that changes every year depending on new chiles that I find. This year, we used yellow Moruga to keep it fresh and interesting. We only make a few hundred bottles of that, and it makes a great gift because we offer it with a T-shirt.
Why should people try your hot sauce? I get it when people are loyal to a brand like Tabasco, Cholula, or whatever. I think that's cool, but you gotta mix it up a little every once in a while. I started this hot sauce because I'm a fan of hot sauces, and I definitely think our hot sauce is worthy of being in your quiver of hot sauces.
Are you ever concerned that people won't take your hot sauce seriously because you're white, or because you're in a band? I don't look at it like that at all. I don't feel I'm better or that I've made this hot sauce better than any other Mexican brand. I'm a fan, and if anything, this is a tribute to all off the Mexican food I grew up eating and loving. I think people get it and won't take it too seriously because of the label. It is of a white dude wearing a Pancho Villa hat, after all.
Any tips for what we should be eating or drinking with the hot sauce? I'd probably have a tequila, because with some hot sauce and some tequila, you'll be all set.
Thanks for speaking with me.