Omar Apollo Has Got the (Hot) Sauce
With the release of his debut album Apolonio and the launch of his Disha Hot sauce, the singer is serving bold love anthems and condiments alike.
Omar Apollo is on fire. Following the release of his critically-acclaimed debut album Apolonio during the pandemic, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter has emerged poised for stardom. Last week, he announced dates for his nationwide Desvelado Tour — including stops at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Austin City Limits — and on July 8, he dropped a new single, "Go Away". Somehow, he also found time to release his very own small-batch hot sauce, Disha Hot, earlier this year.
Born Omar Apolonius Velasco, Apollo blew up in 2017 after posting a homemade track, "Ugotme," on Spotify, then waking up to thousands of streams. Since then, he's become known for a distinctive genre-blurring sound that fuses funk and R&B with a subtle Spanglish sensibility that nods to his Mexican roots. On Apolonio, he pushes this sound further with "Dos Uno Nueve," an energetic Spanish-language track that takes the narrative format of Mexico's traditional corrido tunes.
MAKE: Hot Sauce Recipes
"I've always been influenced by how I grew up," explains Apollo. "Being Mexican-Amerian, my parents still had the culture, the language, the foods, the traditions, and the holidays. That was passed on to me, my brother, and sister. Everyone in my family loves spicy food, you know, we love being at the table breathing hard cause it's so hot. When everyone's sweating a little."
Wth the launch of Disha Hot, Apollo brings this cultural lens from the recording studio to the kitchen. The sauce — a classic, versatile hot sauce-salsa hybrid made with tomatillo, cilantro, lime, and smoky chile de árbol — is a personal family recipe passed down from his parents, immigrants from Guadalajara who ran a Mexican restaurant called El Super Taco in Indiana in the '90s. We caught up with Apollo to learn more about this foray into the condiment game.
What was the a-ha moment when you decided to create Disha Hot?
Well I've always wanted to try other businesses besides music. It just came to me when we were on tour in the UK. We were on the sprinter van and I just said I was going to make hot sauce. I'm really passionate about hot sauces — I have so many at home, like six or seven at a time.
So what happened next? How did you decide to use your parents' recipe?
We called in tons of samples from big hot sauce vendors, but I wasn't feeling them. So I knew it had to be a family recipe. So I called up my mom and she sent over three or four of her recipes, and then we made them, took notes, and kept changing things until we got the perfect formula. The most important thing for me was to make something that I would have had in my house growing up.
What are some of the key ingredients?
Definitely the roasted tomatillos, and the cilantro. It's a hot sauce, but also a salsa. So it's got a little heat but plenty of flavor.
And the meaning behind the name Disha Hot?
It's just like "this shit hot," haha.
What was your earliest memory of hot sauce?
I was introduced to hot sauce when I was probably two or three. As a little kid, I was always eating hot chips and spicy food. My parents made hot sauces at home, with peppers they grow, using a molcajete to smash them. They would make all different spice levels. We wouldn't really eat out because they'd cook all the time.
Your parents both worked in restaurants, right?
When they first came over, my dad worked in a restaurant where he learned how to make American food. He's pretty skilled at that because he was doing it for so long. My mom knew all the Mexican recipes she learned from my grandma — she could make it all from scratch. When they figured out how to get a loan from the bank, they opened their own restaurant called El Super Taco. They were known for their tacos. They closed it when I was born—too many kids and it wasn't making enough money. That's why I'm keeping it alive with the hot sauce, and that's why the label has a picture of a mom and a little baby. Because she had to take care of her kids.
How do they feel about the sauce? What's been the reaction?
They're really happy about it. They're happy that people are getting it. Their friends back home are buying it and talking about it. It's just pretty cool. They're pretty excited about anything that we do, really supportive.
What are some of your favorite restaurants in LA?
I'm really into Japanese food right now. There's a vegan sushi spot called Shojin. And Katsu-Ya in Studio City.
How do you eat Disha Hot?
On eggs and toast in the morning, on chicken, on rice. You can put it on anything, even your little tuna salad or whatever. It makes everything taste better.