Super-condiment? Mad Hatter heats, spices, and marinates
The creators of Mad Hatter didn't set out to invent a super-condiment, but they did see a void in the ever-changing hot sauce market.
As Nathan West tells it, his partner, Cailen von Briesen, a New Mexico native, was accustomed to eating habañero chilis– one of the hottest peppers around– for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dissatisfied with the predominant dehydrated-ingredients-and- vinegar hot sauces on the market, the two began playfully experimenting six or seven years ago, and came up with a habañero and pineapple combination.
"It's a non-abrasive heat with a twist of sweet," says West, who as a musician took it with him on the road. "It made sh*tty food really taste good."
West says it also worked as a marinade, dip, and spread. Word of mouth spread, so to speak, and three years ago, the hobby became a business with a contest to design the Mad Hatter logo.
Inadvertently, the brand could tout being a vegan as well as gluten-free and dairy-free product because its ingredients are (besides the habañeros and pineapple) only olive oil, garlic, onion, and spices. There are no preservatives or artificial flavorings or colorings– hence a pale demeanor and a need to refrigerate after opening.
West recounts the testimony from a diabetic man who said he couldn't eat hot sauces before Mad Hatter because of the processed sugar.
"We are a healthy lifestyle with an edge," says West, stressing the company's community sponsorships of a men's soccer team ("undefeated"), a Mad Hatters Little League team, and the Mad Hatter main stage at the April 29 Mountain Cove Music Festival in Nelson County. Mad Hatter will have a team at an upcoming CrossFit event in May.
"It marries up with the healthy lifestyle," notes the avid sponsorshipper, who says his condiment is totally handcrafted, even down to bottling and labeling. It's available at about 15 locations around town, including Beer Run, Market Street Market, and the Organic Butcher, as well as online.
"We've shipped to Kabul and Paris," says West. "My overall goal is to carpet-bomb Charlottesville, then carpet-bomb Virginia," says West.
And then, presumably, he'll carpet-bomb the world.