One of the newest brands you’ll find at Hot Sauce Depot this year is Gunshot Sauce. Because I wasn’t familiar with the brand at first—and because I love how every sauce out there seems to have its own unique story—I was excited to learn more. I had the chance to talk with Will McCarthy, the great, great-grandson of the old-school originator of Gunshot Sauce, the legendary Grampa Wilford.
How Gunshot Sauce Quite Literally Got Its Name
Back in the day, Grampa Wilford was known for smoking some of the best pork shoulders you could find. He actually packed homemade shotgun shells with his secret sauce and shot the shoulders with his 12-gauge while they were being smoked. The recipe for his secret sauce was handed down through the family until it reached his great, great-grandson Will, who wondered why no one ever tried to have Grampa Wilford’s sauce professionally botted before.
“It started back in 2008 when I was placed on active duty from the Navy Reserves and mobilized to Afghanistan and Iraq for a year,” Will explained. “When I returned in 2009, I took it upon myself to research bottling companies, decide on a bottle, and design a label and logo which were in keeping with the storied past of this great sauce and true to the tales I had heard of Grampa Wilford. Of course, having never done anything like this before this process took much longer than one might expect, but in the end I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.”
The Gunshot Sauce family has grown since then in a couple of ways. Now there are two recipes (Original and Hot and Spicy), and Will has married the lovely Arlene, with whom he has two children. When Will first started Gunshot Sauce, he and Arlene had only just met and started dating. “As our relationship grew more serious, she became a much more integral part and began playing a more active and pivotal role in the company,” Will revealed. “I hazard to guess where Gunshot Sauce might be today if not for her encouragement, wonderful feedback and sage advice over the years.”
An Old-Fashioned, All-Natural, Versatile Sauce
One of the things that sets Gunshot Sauce apart from the pack is that it truly is an old-fashioned recipe. Because it originated so many years ago, it contains no chemicals or artificial preservatives—in fact, the only preservative is pure apple cider vinegar. Plus, it’s gluten-free, although Grampa Wilford likely didn’t plan it that way.
“By and large, Gunshot Sauce is not an inherently complicated recipe, as were most recipes of Grampa Wilford's era, I would venture to say,” Will told me. “I think our insistence on using the same natural ingredients he had at his disposal results in a taste from yesteryear, long before 'gluten-free' had entered into our lexicon. The fact that it is in line with the many gluten-free diets of today is just an added plus.”
Gunshot Sauce doesn’t fit into a single category of sauces because of its versatility. It can be used as a marinade, as a basting sauce, as a BBQ sauce, as a dipping sauce, and beyond. Although Grampa Wilford used it mainly in his legendary pork shoulders, it’s also great with beef, chicken, fish, wild game, potatoes, soups, stews, and more. Will recommends trying it mixed with mayonnaise as the base for a coleslaw.
“Six parts mayonnaise to one-part Gunshot Sauce as the base for the coleslaw,” he explained. “Then use said coleslaw to top a fish taco complete with a couple slices of fresh avocado. My mouth is watering as I type this actually."
It comes in the Original Recipe or a Hot and Spicy version for those of us who like a little more heat. Although Will personally prefers the Hot & Spicy Gunshot Sauce, the only actual difference between the two recipes is the heat level. “I've found some folks who believe there is a flavor difference between the two,” he said. “I'm not sure how that's possible as the only difference in the two recipes is the heat level. But if there's one thing I've learned in these past several years of introducing so many folks to Gunshot Sauce, is that everyone is quite entitled to their own tastes and opinions. For me, I find they taste the same apart from a bit of extra heat in the Hot & Spicy Recipe.”
Finally, a question I like to ask hot sauce and BBQ sauce producers is, “If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to yourself back when you were growing up, what would it be?” I find that their response usually reveals a lot about themselves and is also reflected in their company and mission. Will’s response certainly did not disappoint:
“I know it would be difficult if not impossible to convey this to the still developing mind of a youngster, but I would tell myself to listen to my grandparents much more,” he said. “To the extent one can, I would love to know so much more about their stories, experiences (good and bad), hopes, fears, dreams, aspirations, hidden talents, hobbies, goals, etc. There aren't too many people in most of our lives who have a vested interest in our education and passing on what they know but our parents and other relatives do, and we should make a concerted effort to take advantage of this fact. I never had a chance to meet my great, great-grandfather but in hindsight, I wish I had inquired more deeply about him with my grandparents in the hopes of getting closer to a firsthand account of this remarkable guy.”
Both Original Recipe Gunshot Sauce and Hot and Spicy Gunshot Sauce are now available at Hot Sauce Depot.