Even if you didn’t just graduate from college (or continue to drink like that’s the case even though you’re well over 25), its 2017, and that means you’ve probably had a shot of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky. While sales have leveled out, the cinnamon whisky, which started out as a humble Canadian schnapps sold under the name Dr. McGillicuddy's Fireball Whisky, is still the country’s best selling liqueur—and the number seven best selling spirit overall. That kind of success inevitably breeds competition, and now you’ll find that Fireball is no longer the only option for people who want to drink a liquid Red Hot. But is it still the best? We tasted through six of Fireball’s top competitors to find out.
From the makers of mint chip-flavored whiskey comes a much more mainstream offering, albeit housed in the same quirky, stainless steel can. Somewhat restrained compared to Fireball, Stillhouse’s crystal-clear offering is bright and vibrant with a candied sweetness at first taste. It finishes round, toasty and slightly spicy, making it a great middle-of-the-road offering that’s accessible to both Fireball fanatics and those who cringe at the thought of the dragon.
Jim Beam’s entry into the cinnamon whiskey field adds some hints of orange zest to the mix. It has Fireball’s signature silky texture (even more so, perhaps) and finishes with a back-of-the-throat burn (as opposed to tongue tingling or full-fledged Szechuan peppercorn-style head high). If you’re looking for a cinnamon whiskey that tastes the most like you’re drinking a Red Hot, look no further.
Made by Hood River Distillers in Oregon, this 70-proof powerhouse was the all-around favorite at our tasting. It’s round with much more actual whiskey influence than any of the other bottlings and packs a ton of spicy heat. While the brand recommends shooting the spirit chilled, it’s a cinnamon whiskey we wouldn’t mind sipping on the rocks.
Nervous about downing a spicy shot of Fireball? Start with this sweet, mild spirit. It smells like a mix of bubblegum and banana, but gives way to light and mellow cinnamon and vanilla flavors—kind of like spice cake. Also, if you’re watching your sugar intake, this brand claims to have a third less sugar than the “leading cinnamon brand.”
Clocking in at over 90 proof, you might expect this spirit to pack quite a wallop—and it certainly brings the heat. But it’s also quite approachable, with an almost apple-y nose and an initially tart flavor. The burn comes in as you sip, but the spirit finishes clean. If you crave more booze from your cinnamon whisky, Cinerator is your best bet.
Unlike Fireball, whose slogan says it “Tastes like Heaven, Burns like Hell,” Evan Williams markets its cinnamon bourbon as having “All heat. No burn.” It follows through, with a sweet, lightly spiced candied flavor and a caramel finish. While it won’t satisfy if that burn is what you crave, it certainly serves as a pleasant dessert sipper.