Fireball is one of the best-selling spirits in the United States. It’s become a bar staple, the foundation of many a Boilermaker special, not to mention a pregame, game-game and postgame catch-all. Over the past few years, there have been copycat products, some from major brands, but none have been able to come close to Fireball’s sales heat.
And as with anything that achieves massive success, Fireball has attracted a legion of haters.
But they’re wrong. Fireball is not terrible. Fireball is, in fact, awesome.
Critiques levied at the cinnamon nectar tend to attack it on one of four counts:
- Fireball shares one of its ingredients (propylene glycol) with antifreeze.
- Fireball’s has a lower alcohol content than typical whiskey.
- Fireball’s flavor is “sugary,” “artificial” or otherwise terrible.
- Fireball has a loutish clientele.
These rationales range from irrelevant to flat out wrong. What’s worse, they’re anti-fun. It’s time to set the record straight.
Critique 1: Fireball shares an ingredient with antifreeze
This one is true but irrelevant. In 2014, Norway, Sweden and Finland recalled Fireball from store shelves because it contains propylene glycol, an ingredient that the press and internet loudmouths worked themselves into a tizzy over because it was “a chemical used in antifreeze.”
First off, there is the logical argument. Just because a particular ingredient is in something toxic does not make that ingredient toxic. Water is an element in household bleach. Bleach is toxic. Oh my gosh, you guys, we have to stop drinking water! (Plus, I hear water has a loutish clientele.)
We’ll admit, propylene glycol has a complex, scary-sounding name. But if you do a little digging, you’ll find that the chemical is “generally recognized as safe” by the US Food and Drug Administration. Furthermore, it’s in a whole lot of things Americans consume, including ice cream, soda, frosting, cake mix and salad dressing. Turns out none of these things will kill you. In fairness, though, the headline “Fireball Contains Same Chemical Used in Sodas, Ice Cream and Cake” doesn’t have that antifreeze zing.
Critique 2: Fireball isn’t as strong as regular whiskey
This one’s true too. Most whiskies are 40 to 60% ABV (80-120 proof). Meanwhile, Fireball is 66 proof, or 33% ABV.
And, right now, I’d like to apologize to Fireball’s critics on behalf of Fireball. I’m sorry, Fireball haters. I’m sorry that one shot of Fireball isn’t enough to knock you through the wall. It’s my fault. I forgot how macho you are, sipping your real-man beverages in front of a roaring fire, your feet resting on the mangled bodies of your vanquished enemies as you lazily bend steel bars with your bare hands.
Here’s the thing, though. Some of us want to make it to the end of the night. Heck, maybe even remember it. Shots are fun, and shots are social, but shots are also very, very dangerous. The chances you’ll overdo it with shots is exponentially greater than it is with wine, beer or long drinks. Fireball gives social drinkers a chance to participate in the fun of a celebratory shot with their friends, and they can still hold their heads high at last call instead of holding them over the toilet bowl.
Critique 3: Fireball’s flavor is terrible
You know what they call people who don’t like the same things as you? Different.
You know what they call people who don’t like people who are different? I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.
Taste is subjective. I don’t particularly love sushi, but you won’t find me scolding those who enjoy it. I don’t recommend sipping a glass of Fireball neat (it’s a little sweet for me), but based on its sales, it’s pretty clear I’m not in the minority as someone who enjoys it. Which brings me to...
Critique 4: Fireball has a loutish clientele
This is another guilt by association attempt (like critique No. 1). Basically, the argument is: Fireball is popular in fraternity houses. Therefore, if you drink it, you are a frat boy.
Fireball is currently tied with Jack Daniel’s as America’s most popular whiskey. If that’s true, there’s a whole lot of frat boys out there who don’t even know they are in a fraternity (not to mention a bunch of frat boys who are, against all odds, female).
Face it. America loves Fireball. Just like we love Taco Bell, Coca-Cola and Taylor Swift. And here’s the most important thing: The reason they like it is really, really simple.
It’s because they like it.
If you don’t, I don’t think there’s anyone holding a knife on you, forcing you to order it. (Though if there, is, we understand why you’re so agitated.)
Speaking as one of those Fireball-loving Americans (who, for the record, did not pledge a frat), I can say that I love Fireball for precisely the same reasons critics hate it. It’s low-proof so there’s less chance I’ll overindulge. It’s non-toxic (I require this of all my spirits). It has a great, sweet burn to it. And everyone loves it.
Fireball isn’t a bar staple because it’s the best whiskey out there. It’s a bar staple because it’s fun. The world needs an affordable, safe, easy whiskey to drink with friends that’s available at pretty much every bar in the country. You’ll have a hard time finding a better alternative.