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Jonathan O’Reilly and the Spiciest Spot in Berlin

Germans love their Currywurst with sort of spicy sauce. They also like what they call spicy mustard. And they eat horseradish which, again, is relatively spicy. But is the German cuisine generally spicy? No. Not at all. Many Berliners would not even order their doner kebap with spicy herbs.

The Irish love their stew, bacon and cabbage. They can’t get enough of boxty, coddle, and colcannon either. None of those dishes is spicy. Not even a bit. It is good, mild food.

Then how come an Irishman living in Germany produces spicy sauces? It started with a vision and some experimenting. Jonathan O’Reilly (see main photo) has been living in Berlin for thirteen years now. Five years ago, he founded Crazy Bastard Sauce. Yes, spicy sauces with an attitude needed a good name.

O’Reilly, the Irish semi-Berliner, and his team are very active. He just populated his stand at Berlin’s Green Week food trade fair for 10 days. When that event ended a few days ago, he had important contacts and lots of orders for his Crazy Bastard Sauce.

His products come in different spiciness levels. “Jalapeño & Date” is the level 1 sauce he is offering. “It’s the mildest one”, Jonathan O’Reilly says. “This one is for everybody. For some people it is already kind of hard enough.”

“Scotch Bonnet & Caribbean Spices” is the level 2 sauce with a West Indies flavor. The next one in line would be “Chipotle & Pineapple”, a very delicious sounding name. Since it is a level 3 spicy sauce, it probably makes consumers sweat. At this kind of spiciness, they will probably want to have a drink nearby. Maybe an entire gallon, to be on the safe side.

The first Crazy Bastard Sauce Jonathan O’Reilly made and sold was “Habanero & Tomatillo”, at spiciness level 4. “It’s the original”, he told The Berlin Spectator. “And it’s the award winner. We’ve won five international awards for this sauce.” Those included the Hot Pepper Awards, the World Hot Sauce Awards, which they won twice, and the Great Taste award. They got that one in both 2017 and 2018.

Of course O’Reilly, the Irish hot sauce professional from Berlin, likes to consume this one himself. “It is a very well balanced sauce. It has got a nice heat from the habanero”, which is a Caribbean variety of chilly pepper. “And the tomatillo brings a sweet citrus tartness to it.”

Jonathan O’Reilly concedes his ‘level 5+’ Carolina Reaper & Blueberry sauce is “very very hot”. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

There is another level 4 sauce called “Ghost Pepper & Mango”. This one can probably wake up the dead. It might even be used as a weapon against the devil or zombies. But it gets even better: “Trinidad Scorpion & Clementine” is O’Reilly’s level 5 sauce. Holy cow!

This one should be consumed if there is a fire extinguisher on the table. At the Crazy Bastard Sauce production place they say that the “Trinidad Scorpion & Clementine starts with a sweet citrus note of clementine.” Sure. And then what? It will “gradually unfold into intense heat and flavor.” No, they are not using the word ‘hell’.

But the most brutal sauce in their program is “Carolina Reaper & Blueberry”. Jonathan O’Reilly concedes that this one is “very very hot.” And when he says so, he means it. “It uses the world’s hottest chilly. And for a lot of people it’s too hot.” No kidding. But he says people “will be able to survive and maybe buy another bottle later.”

In Mexico, where even toddlers eat very spicy food, they say it burns twice, once during eating, and once during the final digestion step. “We try to make these sauces burn just once”, O’Reilly says. “And the way you do that is to cook them for at least an hour.”

Crazy Bastard Sauce has a store and restaurant at Weserstrasse 168 in Berlin’s Neukölln quarter. Here they sell all of the sauces mentioned, some British sweets of brands usually not available in Germany, some drinks from England and Ireland, as well as specials.

The latest creation is a sauce called “Berlin brennt” (“Berlin is burning”), a product the ingredients for which are all from Berlin. Even the chilly used is being grown right here in the German capital.

At the Crazy Bastard Kitchen, their restaurant, they offer a different special every weekend, meals which do fit their sauces well. This weekend, it is “Cajun Soulfood”. Soon, they will offer “Burgers & Wings”, of course they will prepare “Great Food from the British Isles” and even “The Taste of Venezuela”.

Jonathan O’Reilly’s team is very international, just like his sauces, and he himself. An Englishman, another Irishman and an American lady are part of the endeavor.

“Berlin is just the right place for founding a company” like Crazy Bastard Sauce, O’Reilly believes. “Once you’ve been running the company for a few years, it becomes more complicated.” He says rents used to be sort of cheap. So he had the opportunity to worry less “and put a lot of time and effort into the company.”

Another aspect is the fact that he likes being here: “I love Berlin. It’s kind of my home now”, he says. “I feel a little bit out of place, when I go back to Ireland.” Jonathan O’Reilly has obviously become a Berliner. “What I like about Berlin is that it is always changing, always evolving. And it’s nice to be a part of that.”

Crazy Bastard Sauce and the Crazy Bastard Kitchen, meaning the shop and the restaurant, can be visited online. The sauce shop at Weserstrasse 168 in Berlin-Neukölln opens Wednesdays to Sundays, the restaurant Fridays to Sundays. The details can be checked here.