Tabasco is a brand of hot pepper sauce invented in the mid-1860's by Edmund McIlhenny, a banker and amateur gardener who was given seeds of the chile pepper Capsicum frutescens, which had come from either Mexico or Central America. He began to plant the seeds on Avery Island, Louisiana, and in 1868 gave up the banking business to grow the peppers commercially. His first bottling was 658 bottles that were sold at wholesale for $1 each (nearly $16 today). He gave it the name Tabasco, which either means “place where the soil is humid” or “place of the coral or oyster shell.”
McIlhenny's recipe in 1868 and the recipe for Tabasco today are strikingly similar. Back then, the peppers were picked, mashed and stored in crocks for 30 days. French white wine vinegar was added and the resulting mixture was aged for another 30 days before being filtered and bottled. Today, the pepper mash is blended with a bit of Avery Island salt is aged for three years in salt-topped white oak barrels before being blended with distilled vinegar, filtered and bottled. The company is now in the sixth generation of family ownership.
Tabasco comes in half a dozen flavors, including jalapeno, chipotle and habañero. They also license out the Tabasco name for various goods, from snack mix to neckties.
Tabasco sauce is sharply vinegar-tasting, with a fairly straightforward heat. It typically ranges between 2,500 and 5,000 Scoville units.