Living in Cuba

Exploring and Living in Cuba

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Monday, 06 June 2016 19:27

In Cuba Tabasco Sauce is a Barometer

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Tabasco Sauce Bottle Tabasco Sauce Bottle

Tabasco sauce is a brand of hot sauce made exclusively from tabasco peppers, (Capsicum frutescens var. tabasco) vinegar and salt. It is produced by the McIlhenny Company of Louisiana. Originally all peppers used in Tabasco sauce were grown on Avery Island. Today peppers grown on the Island are used to produce seed stock, which is then shipped to foreign growers, primarily in Central and South America. More predictable weather and readily available farmland in these locales allow a constant year-round supply. This ensures the availability of peppers should severe weather or other problems occur at a particular growing location. The original red Tabasco sauce has a shelf life of five years when stored in a cool and dry place; other Tabasco flavors have shorter shelf lives.

Tabasco brand pepper sauce is sold in more than 180 countries and territories and is packaged in 22 languages and dialects.The Tabasco bottle is an original design and has remained almost unchanged up to the present.

At first, I was shocked to see McIlhenny’s world-famous tabasco sauce in Cuba. I guess local importers found a way to get it through another country like Mexico despite the current embargo.

In Cuba a good indicator for finding out if a restaurant is run by the government or by a private party called cuentapropista, is to ask if they have tabasco sauce. Raúl Castro has let local entrepreneurs start their own business which has led to a whole slew of new eateries. My Cuba friends and I discovered that If you go into a government operated restaurant, chances are they will not have tabasco sauce. On the other hand, all of the privately owned and operated restaurants offer it. One Cuban friend, Eddy, asked the manager of an upscale government-run restaurant in the exclusive enclave of Miramar to order tabasco sauce months ago. To this day the restaurant fails to offer it.

Hence we developed the law of “Law of Tabasco Sauce.” All you have to is ask if a restaurant has tabasco to know if is run or not by the government. We joke about this every time we dine in a Cuban restaurant and ask if they have sauce.

The bottom line is that privately run restaurants in Cuba tend to operate more efficiently and cater to the tastes of foreign tourists and a handful of Cubans. It now seems like every day there are more and more new restaurants opening in the Havana area. ¡Buen provecho (Bon Appetit)!

Learn more on one of our Discover Cuba tours. For information about short and long-term stays see:


Official Guide to
Cuban Spanish

Official Guide to Cuban Spanish

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