Carolina Sauce Company, I have learned how to "put out the fire" when encountering an incendiary hot sauce (especially a pepper extract) or taking a bite of food that turns out to be too spicy. Here's what works, and what doesn't, at least for me.
Many people reach for water when eating spicy food, or perhaps an alcoholic beverage like beer. Water provides very temporary relief at best, usually quenching the fire only so long as the water is still in your mouth. The problem is that plain old water cannot "neutralize" the capsaicin that causes the burning sensation when you eat hot sauce or hot peppers. Instead, water merely spreads around the natural oils in the pepper without really diluting them, much like trying to mix water into salad oil: the two liquids remain separate.
I find that alcohol makes things worse - and indeed there are articles that explain that alcohol merely "dislodges" the capsaicin in your mouth, allowing it to come in contact with even more of your tongue and mouth. I guess if you drink *enough* alcohol, you dull your ability to feel pain in general, but then you create a host of other problems which are beyond the scope of this topic! But the bottom line is that water and alcohol are poor fire-quenchers. The same is true for soda and other carbonated beverages - and at least to my taste, they leave an awful aftertaste when "mixed" with hot sauce and hot peppers.
Some folks swear by orange juice as an effective means of stopping the burn from hot sauce and hot peppers. I've tried this method only a few times, and while the OJ worked better than water, the burning sensation would return after a few seconds (and as with soda, I didn't like the aftertaste).
So what is my fire extinguisher of choice? Milk! In fact, part of my preparation to taste new hot sauces is to pour myself a glass of milk to keep on hand in case I encounter something particularly hot. I also use milk (together with some saltine crackers) as a "palate cleanser" when sampling multiple hot sauces, so that I can get a more accurate sense of the heat level of each sauce. Although I normally drink skim milk, I've found that milk with a bit of fat in it works better at coating and soothing a burned tongue. Other dairy products do a good job too, including plain yogurt (which is probably why lassi is a popular drink in southern India), sour cream (why do you think it's served with Mexican food?!?), cream cheese (often mixed with peppery condiments to create a flavorful but tamer spread or dip), and ice cream (especially vanilla). As with milk, the fat free versions of these other dairy products don't work quite as well as full-fat or reduced fat dairy products, but even skim dairy beats water, beer and orange juice when it comes to soothing a hot-sauced tongue.
So what is your favorite fire extinguisher? Post a comment to let us know, especially if you have a good hot sauce tasting story to go along with it!