Handle The Proof: Prairie Fire

The two ingredients that comprise a prairie fire can, on their own and in the right quantities, easily dispose of just about anyone's ability to function in an upright and lucid manner. Mix tequila and Tabasco together and you have...well, the closest thing to kerosene most of us will ever drink, a great 'dare-you-to-drink-this' bar shot or the makings of the classic Bloody Maria--anything but a cocktail you want to indulge in all night.

It is rather surprising, therefore, that Tabasco came out with their own brand of the fraternity initiation shot, all dressed up in a classy bottle and priced for young professionals.

Yes, there has been a push to market tequila as the next hot spirit--a probably futile effort to replace vodka (although sales jumped by more than seven percent last year as a result, so you never know). And vodka producers had remarkable success releasing flavored versions, from the basic orange to acai berry. But, if you'll recall, rum tried the same tactic with less memorable results.

Meaning orange flavor, not that nasty but salable Captain Morgan stuff.

At least Tabasco isn't creating something entirely new. Although prairie fire exists in many forms--hot sauce and moonshine, whiskey, Everclear and 151 being just a few examples (and at least one cookbook refers to it as a "desert rose")--the two-fisted combination has been around for a few decades, at least. And on first impression, this bottled blend seems surprisingly smooth.

Tabasco teamed with Heaven Hill, a Bourbon-country distillery, for their spicy tequila. Heaven Hill is also responsible for Two Fingers, Arandas, and other modest labels, but the tequila smacks more of Cuervo gold, a somewhat palatable 'mixto.'

Mixto tequila contains as much as 49 percent non-agave spirit, generally cane sugar alcohol. It can also include artifical color, flavoring extracts--and it can be bottled outside of Mexico.

Whatever, they've definitely not harmed any real, 100 percent agave spirit along the way. The famous hot sauce dominates on the nose and the familiar sweet-vinegar taste flows forward at first sip. Indeed, far from striking spicy notes, Tabasco's liquor is almost too sweet to take in sizable amounts. But a comfortable burn follows--aided along by the sting of alcohol--and lingers, along with the sharp pang of vinegar, in the back of your throat.

This is nothing like the harsh, fear-for-the-next-morning shots poured by college town bartenders. It's just smooth enough to beat expectations. And the flavor profile suggests strong Bloody Maria potential.

But it's not something most people will want to sip for very long.

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