The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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Some like it hot, and some like it very hot and Kevin Mackey is betting that if you’re one of them, you’ll be a fan of Angry Irishman hot sauce. (But don’t worry, if you don’t…he won’t be mad – it’s just the sauce that has the attitude).

The story behind Angry Irishman is a love story. It began in 1986 when Mackey and his family relocated to Port Charlotte, Florida after he graduated from Oak Harbor High School.

He didn’t want to move, in part because he smitten with classmate Mary Ann Mullin. “We had gone out a couple of times, but I couldn’t tell her how I felt about her,” he said.

Living in Florida, he found himself homesick, lovesick and bored. He decided to take advantage of the hot, humid climate and started growing peppers in a little kidney-shaped patch of land in his back yard.

“We grew peppers when we lived in Ohio, but I thought I’d try planting the hot varieties,” he said. “They literally grew like weeds.”

angry-irishman
"Mr. and Mrs. Irishman," Mary Ann and Kevin Mackey, cooked up a secong batch
of their Angry Irishman Hot Sauce July 11, the day before their wedding. (Press
photo by Tammy Walro)

He used his bumper crop of peppers to make hot sauce, and eventually accepted a challenge from a friend to see who could make the sauce with the most heat.

When Mackey won the competition, and his interest was piqued. “I went to the library and did some research on ingredients for making hot sauce,” he said. “Over a period of about seven years of trial and error – including some really disgusting versions – I finally came up with this recipe – a habanero and tomato-based hot sauce.”

He gave samples of his sauce it to family and friends to try and after receiving requests for more, he began making the product in his kitchen and selling it on a limited basis.

He was surprised when a local reporter saw the product and contacted him for a story. “It was supposed to be a little story in the ‘Our Town’ section, but ended up on the front page of the business section in the Sunday paper,” he recalled. “That Tuesday, I got a call from Tallahassee saying, ‘You’ve got to stop what you’re doing because it’s illegal.”

Subsequently, he found a family-run restaurant that allowed him to produce his sauce there after they closed. “I could then legally sell the sauce within the state of Florida,” he said. “At that point, it was more or less an expensive hobby.”

Mackey originally dubbed the sauce, “Jugo del Diablo (juice of the devil). “When I became a Christian, the name didn’t fit too well so I relied on my family history – I’m mostly Irish and we tend to be a rather rambunctious type of folk, so I came up with ‘Angry Irishman.’”

Though he was 1,200 miles away, he couldn’t forget about Mary Ann. “In 2009, I followed my heart and reconnected with her,” he said. The next year, he moved back to Northwest Ohio.

Busy with work and focusing on a budding relationship, the hot sauce was put on the back burner, until 2012 when Mullin encouraged him to make a batch.

“I took it to work for my co-workers to try. Someone asked, ‘What do Irish people know about hot sauce?’ A lot of them asked, ‘How hot is it?’

“I just told them to try it and tell me what they think,” he said, adding, “I admit, I love watching people’s reaction when they taste it for the first time. It smells like marinara sauce – you get the flavor for the first five or 10 seconds and then the heat just drives it home,” he said.

“I put it on everything…I’ve put it in the oil when making popcorn…whew….it’ll light you up pretty good,” Mackey said.

Rave reviews led the couple to consider producing the sauce for sale. Mullin, whom Mackey described as “the looks and the brains of the outfit,” started doing some research. The couple contacted Small Business Development Center through the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce for guidance.

They came up with a detailed business plan, and then connected with Paula Ray, Small Business Coordinator at the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) in Toledo.

“She gave us a checklist of items to complete to be able to use CIFT’s Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen in Bowling Green, which we did,” Mackey said. The couple also designed a label, which featured the Mackey family crest.

On May 28, the couple, with the aid of friends who volunteered their services, cooked up the first batch of Ohio-based Angry Irishman Hot Sauce in the NOCK kitchen.

“We put some feelers out to retailers and restaurants, and word must have gotten out because we started getting some calls from places we hadn’t contacted yet,” Mullin said.

With their inventory of 715 bottles selling fast, they scheduled a second production date for July 11, just a day before they were getting married.

“It’s a busy time, but we feel so blessed,” they said.

Angry Irishman Hot Sauce is available at several area locations including Frobose Meat Locker, in Pemberville; Novelties and Nostalgia in Woodville; Cuttin’ Loose Hair Salon, Tank’s Meats, Tina’s Country Market and Drive Thru, and Bench's Greenhouse and Nursery in Elmore.

For more information about Angry Irishman Hot Sauce, visit www.AngryIrishman.net, call 567-482.-0090 or email info@angryirishman.net.

 

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