How a Free Sample Stuck Around: The History of Tabasco Sauce’s Tiny Bottles

The best-selling hot sauce's bottle is modeled after cork-top cologne from the 1800's.

Photo: Mr. Capetown

Photo: Mr. Capetown

It takes 720 drops to get to the bottom of a Tabasco bottle, according to a recent article by Quartz on the history of the hot sauce.

The sauce, manufactured by McIlhenny’s, dates back to 1860. The 2-oz. bottle is a copy of the original cork-top cologne bottle which creator Edmund McIlhenny first used for production, reports Quartz. The iconic bottle design came about in the early 1900s.

2395 thumb lg 500x374 1 How a Free Sample Stuck Around: The History of Tabasco Sauces Tiny Bottles

Photo: Knowla

Tabasco is a unique mix of vinegar, red peppers, salt, and vinegar. The mixture is aged up to three years in oak barrels, giving it that unique taste no other hot sauce can replicate. McIlhenny created the original recipe using capsicum frutescens seeds from Mexico or Central America, according to the official Tabasco website.

The first batch of Tabasco was sold in cologne bottles because McIlhenny could get his hands on a large supply on them easily. He sold the first 868 bottles for $1 apiece in 1869, reports the Tabasco website.

Even smaller than the 2-oz. bottle is the one-eighth ounce version, typically given with takeaway meals and in hotels. The teeniest Tabasco bottle was created as a free sample.

Quartz reports:

It initially served as a sampler, given away at the end of a “burlesque opera” the McIlhennys commissioned in 1895 to travel around the country. They told the story of a man who discovered Tabasco—and loved it. ‘We gave away free samples at the end of the play to promote’ the new sauce, Simmons said. The 2 ounce bottles are specially made for McIlhenny, with a tiny opening.”

While the one-eighth ounce bottles aren’t quite as popular as the 2-oz., Tabasco remains the number one hot sauce in the United States, with an 18.3% market share.

Which is good because, as the McIlhenny CEO tells Quartz, “The bottle is difficult to make.”

[via Quartz]

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