Update, June 30, 2020: Old Bay Hot Sauce has officially returned, and you can buy it online right now! Or, that is, until it sells out again. I live in Baltimore, and according to the two neighbors I’ve spoken to so far, no one knows about this breaking news yet, so you might have a chance to get your hands on a few bottles before this city cleans out McCormick’s warehouse. These people can sniff out Old Bay the way police dogs smell cocaine.
Original post, January 29, 2020: At 11:26 this morning, Old Bay released a brand spankin’ new, supposedly limited-edition hot sauce:
As a current resident of Baltimore, Maryland, I had a good idea as to what would happen next, and, once again, I was right.
Listen, Old Bay is a great seasoning. I’ve used it many a time on all sorts of things, like shrimp, crab, and “krab.” It’s a perfectly nice thing! But when I moved to Baltimore about four years ago, I learned that the people down here feel the same way about can of blended spices they way teenage girls care about K-Pop, or how teenage boys care about hot showers. The Old Bay logo is printed on beach towels, it’s on the flags that wildly flap from row house windows, it is stuck on car bumpers right between the Baltimore Rat and Mr. Boh. There is a man who lives down the block whose entire wardrobe consists of Under Armour track pants and Old Bay logo shirts. There is a can of it on every restaurant table in the city, regardless of what cuisine they serve. It is on the Filet-o-Fish; it is available for all your needs at Shake Shack; it rims every Bloody Mary; it is swirled into ice cream. I have seen some highly unfortunate tattoos.
My friend Kathy Patterson, a food writer and Baltimore native, tells me the local obsession isn’t just about the flavor; it’s about something that’s distinctly theirs, “A simple product that brings a little Baltimore to any place in the world.” And while this is a city that loves having their favorite local blend of secret spices (and lots and lots of salt) representing the spirit of Baltimore on tables from here to Timbuktu, I have no doubt that every single bottle of Old Bay Hot Sauce will not end up far from the company’s Maryland headquarters. I would not be surprised if their offices are currently being stormed by locals searching for drums full of hot sauce as if they were OPEC reserves.
Will this “LIMITED EDITION” hot sauce ever be available again? Yes. A press release says to “be on the lookout over the next month or so to find the new OLD BAY Hot Sauce appearing for sale at select retail stores.” If you can’t wait that long to experience the Chesapeake Bay and the wings of Buffalo at the same time, I suggest whisking together a bunch of hot sauce with a few big tablespoons of Old Bay and going buckwild on your own terms.