I enjoy that style on occasion, but when I crave buffalo wings, it's not what I want. What I want is Cluck-U wings (or "wingers" as they sometimes called them). Cluck-U started in New Brunswick, New Jersey in the mid-80s and went onto become a minor chain in Jersey and Maryland college towns. When I went off to college in New Brunswick in '87, I had never even heard of buffalo wings and I had never drank more than one beer in a night. Some of the upperclassmen in my dorm decided to remedy that one night, ordering up a huge mess of Cluck-U "Thermo Nuclear" wings and insisting (as an absolute rule) that my roommates and I drink no water with them, only beer (probably Old Milwaukee). I devoured those wings with what one of my friends later refered to as a "caveman" intensity. And with every delicious, insanely hot bite, I needed more and more beer. And the drunker I got, the more talkative I got. Even around people I barely knew. That was the night I went from a shy, timid introvert to loud-mouthed, gregarious extrovert. As ludicrous as it sounds, that baptism by hot sauce and cheap beer had a real, lasting effect on my personality.
But enough mythology, what about the wings themselves? Cluck-U made them sweet. They were battered in what I remember as something like a light tempura (all the better to soak up the sauce) and then deep fried and tossed in what was really more of a glaze than a sauce. It was probably a mix of hot sauce, brown sugar, corn syrup and vinegar. At least that's the combo I was experimenting with Saturday night when I tried (for the first time ever) to recreate them. They were definitely great and fairly close to the mark, but way sweeter than hot. Next time, I'll add some chili powder to increase the heat. I'm also curious about adding just a little tomato puree to the mix, although, once I do that I'm moving away from the Cluck-U recipe and into new territory.