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Fireball Company Comes Out with New Spicy-Sweet Tequila

Fireball Company Comes Out with New Spicy-Sweet Tequila

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Meet Tijuana Sweet Heat: a liquor that mixes gold tequila with agave nectar, creating a sweet and spicy alcoholic beverage

Does university bar favorite Fireball have some competition on its tail?

For a while, Fireball, the cinnamon-flavored whiskey popular with college-aged students, didn’t have too much competition. But then Jack Daniels came out with a cinnamon flavor, and Fireball suffered a blow last year when propylene glycol, the major component of anti-freeze, was discovered as an ingredient in the liquor. So what’s the solution? Create a new liquor for 20-somethings to go bananas over.Sazerac, the company that brought you Fireball, has just released Tijuana Sweet Heat, a spicy-sweet gold tequila infused with agave nectar.

Tijuana Sweet Heat has a low ABV of 70 proof, whereas traditional tequila usually hits around 80 proof, according to Vine Pair. Tijuana Sweet Heat, a liquor that was “designed for shots,” according to the Drink Spirits review, has notes of pepper, dill, and sweet agave nectar, but “tequila aficionados will surely see Tijuana Sweet Heat as a dumbing down of an amazing spirit, and it very much is.”

Still, it does what Sazerac’s Fireball does best, according to spirits critics: creates a tasty liquor experience that people can easily shoot back. Plus, the eye-catching bottle will look tempting on a college bar’s middle shelf. Tijuana Sweet Heat will be sold in limited markets this spring, and is likely to go national in June.

These Valentines Comes With Booze Inside Because That's What We Really Need

Help out a thirsty loved one with a Drinkable Valentine's Day Card.

Now that we&aposre uh … way too far into an ongoing global pandemic, it seems that Valentine&aposs Day is the only major holiday/gifting occasion that most of us have yet to deal with amid the "new normal." With fancy dinners mostly off the table (unless you live somewhere warm or your date has a supernatural ability to withstand the cold), making your significant other smile on February 14, 2021 will require a more creative approach.

Given the year we&aposve all had, maybe the winning play on this strangest of Valentine&aposs Days will involve alcohol. If that&aposs the case, you&aposd be wise to consider picking up a card from NIPYATA! that&aposll not only warm a loved one&aposs heart but put a fire in their belly as well. In case you hadn&apost already made an educated guess based on the company&aposs name, NIPYATA! Is selling "Drinkable" Valentine&aposs Day Cards that hook your boo up with some booze.

It&aposs pretty self-explanatory: though appearing like a relatively normal (if a bit thicker) Valentine&aposs Day card on the outside, your partners will open it up to find a 50ml nip of alcohol. Since no two relationships are exactly alike, the boozy filling of your Drinkable Valentine&aposs Day Card isn&apost a one-size-fits-all solution, either. When you buy, you can choose from Jack Daniels, Casamigos Reposado Tequila, Grey Goose, classy Johnnie Walker Black, or even Fireball if you&aposre looking forward to a particularly rowdy night at home. 

While Valentine&aposs Day is too often a rough and exclusionary period for singles, NIPYATA! Ensures that it need not be so this year. To express more platonic love for the friends who&aposve helped you survive the past year, there&aposs also a Drinkable Galentine&aposs Day Card, complete with the same choices of boozy fillings. Better yet, if you buy three cards you&aposll get a fourth for free, perfect for coordinating a Zoom party for all the single ladies (or guys, everyone&aposs invited). 

It may not be the only gift you&aposll need to buy to keep that special someone happy, but at $19.99, it&aposs a fun, memorable way to brighten up what&aposll probably go down as the strangest Valentine&aposs Day yet. 

Fireball Explosion: The Completely Bizarre Rise Of An Insane Liquor

Here's what happens when a rogue whiskey sets the world ablaze.

Most of us at Delish were Fireball virgins up until about 8 months ago. But the obsession started&mdashas nearly all wicked things do&mdashat a bachelorette party. "I went to three in a span of a few weeks, and at literally at every single one, some girl would shout out, 'Oh my god, let's do a round of Fireball shots!" says senior editor Candace Braun. Soon after, Candace found herself at a family holiday party, where someone's little old grandmother pulled out a bottle and yelled, "Let's get this party started!" "It was at that point that I realized this stuff had universal appeal."

The next day in the Delish kitchen, Candace pitched a video idea: Cinnamon Roll Fireball Shots&mdashFireball whiskey mixed with cream soda and whipped cream. Some of us chuckled. Most patronized her with interest. But no question: all of us were confused. What WAS this stuff? We decided to move the idea forward&mdashthen we posted the video, and watched the universe ignite. The video had 32 million views and over 1.1 million shares on Facebook in a matter of few weeks.

Just saying the word "Fireball" most likely caused you to have one of two responses. Either your mouth watered at the thought of that Big Red-in-a-bottle sting, or your eyes rolled at the mention (how can it call itself "whiskey" and share a shelf with real spirits?). In either case, it's tough to deny the allure of Fireball&mdashor ignore its truly unprecedented spike of success.

If it seems like Fireball came out of nowhere, that's because it did. The brand had sales of $1.9 million in 2011, and $130 million by 2014. (Those numbers, by the way, reflect retail sales alone. It doesn't take into account the purchases that are made secondhand&mdashthat is, via shots at bars.) In half a decade, Fireball has shot up the list of best-selling liquors in the U.S. it now rests comfortably in the top 10, beating out legacy names like Jim Beam and Jose Cuervo.

It may be surprising to learn that Fireball has actually been around since the 1980s, when the formula was sold under the name Dr. McGillicuddy's Fireball Whisky. The spicy cinnamon liquor and its ability to instantly heat up your insides made it a great fit in Canada, the only country where it was sold. The whiskey's twenty-first century renaissance began when the New Orleans-based Sazerac Company (otherwise best known as the distributor of Pappy Van Winkle's bourbon) rebranded the formula in 2007. They removed the elderly Dr. McGillicuddy from the label, replacing him with a red devil, and shortened the name. And they put one very special man to work: Richard Pomes.

In mid-2010, when he was college-aged himself, Pomes became Fireball's brand ambassador. The company gave him one mission: give young people free shots. He hit up bars, typically in the South, typically in college towns, and bought shots for huge groups of revelers. It was that simple, and that brilliant (though they'll never admit it Sazerac is a private company that rarely, if ever, does press, including for this story).

Esteban McMahan works at a college bar, the TOPO Restaurant, Brewery, and Distillery in Chapel Hill, NC, which sits within blocks of the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, and began stocking the stuff when his young clientele demanded it. "Fireball displaced Jager for the party scene," he remembers, but it wasn't all kids. "People in their thirties and forties order it though, too, when they're out with their buddies. Fireball is the celebratory shot."

Pomes' efforts represent the most old-fashioned type of marketing: word of mouth. His mission accomplished, he moved on in 2012, creating his own agency and serving such clients as the city of New Orleans itself. In the following years, Fireball continued to bypass traditional print or television advertising, and instead capitalized on that newest form of marketing: social media.

The brand's web voice is that of a lovable scamp. Other spirits aim to seem untouchably cool, like Dos Equis' The Most Interesting Man in the World, while whiskey companies fall all over themselves trying to prove how authentic they are, as with Jim Beam's suggestion that Civil War soldiers chugged the stuff to survive amputations. Fireball doesn't even have print or broadcast advertising, so their social media tells the whole story. Their persona sounds excited and happy they root followers along to the weekend and post endless fire puns. Their Twitter account even flirts with the accounts of other millennial-friendly companies, such as Ann Taylor LOFT and Taco Bell.

The internet loves Fireball right back. In an age when every advertising agency is brainstorming how to engineer virality&mdashsee wacky, must-share campaigns like Mountain Dew's #Puppymonkeybaby or Android's Friends Furever&mdashconsumers craft content on Fireball's behalf. Pinterest is packed with recipe suggestions, whether liquid or solid, and there are #FireballFriday memes for any pop-culture reference. A video of little old ladies sampling Fireball (and of course, loving it) got 3 million hits last December.

That digital fanaticism was never more clear than when, in the fall of 2014, news broke that Fireball had been banned in Europe over one of its ingredients, which is also a part of antifreeze. Cue utter internet meltdown, and a lot of confusion. The whiskey was recalled in Norway, Sweden and Finland after a batch of the North American formula went to Scandinavia by mistake. That key chemical, propylene glycol, is only legal in Europe in slim proportions, while the U.S. is a little looser in their requirements. Our Food and Drug Administration says it's "generally recognized as safe," and Fireball released a statement to let everyone know that, like, you need to chill. "Fireball is perfectly safe to drink. Just as it always has been," they snapped.

Of course, with great success comes many other haters. Whiskey aficionados love to claim that this stuff barely counts as whiskey&mdashin fact, most that we asked to interview for this story reacted with full-blown contempt. "It has certainly gotten people who don't consider themselves 'whiskey drinkers' to drink whiskey," says Mark Bowman, the manager at the Oak Bar in Nashville (and one of the few whiskey lovers willing to discuss the fiery stuff). "But it also created a fad that has seen the market flooded with flavored whiskeys of low quality: high in sugar and artificial flavors, almost too easy to drink. There are probably a whole lot of consumers out there who will never touch whiskey again because of a night or two of too much Fireball, or one of the new flavored whiskey products that followed in its wake."

And follow they have. Multiple cinnamon-flavored whiskies have hit the market in recent years (see box), and these releases are one area where the Sazerac Company isn't afraid to make some noise. They filed five complaints in the 2014 and 2015 alone, arguing against abuses such as the use of a similar devil logo (SinFire Cinnamon Whiskey) and even the manipulation of Google ads (Jack Daniel's), so that a consumer searching for the term "fireball" sees their Tennessee whiskey instead. Sazerac dropped or settled all of the suits, which seems to suggest their main goal is to make a point.

Try as they might, it'll be difficult to stop the Fireball train of brand recognition. In five years, the whiskey has created a shorthand that other labels take decades to earn: as with Kleenex, Oreos, Bandaids, Coke, the item is the brand. The brand is the item. When you hit a bar with friends, you order a round of tequila, or lemon drops, or beers. Or the capital F of Fireball.

It's easy to see why everyone wants to replicate that&mdashbut even that said, the more crowded the party gets, the more some people want to leave it. Beth*, 20, a college sophomore, claims the whiskey is pretty lame, even embarrassing, on her campus in New England. "I drink better than that," she says. "I believe there is a stigma attached to it, like Malibu [rum]. It's for those who can't handle straight alcohol."

Items are 'basic' when they're easy to like, easy to consume, easy to rally around. "I have always said that when it comes to wine, the only thing that matters is whether or not you like what's in your glass (or cup!)," says Bowman. "In that sense, Fireball is a great product because it makes a lot of people happy."

Fake Booze: Convenience stores start stocking shelves with faux liquor

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Residents may have seen some new bottles of alcohol on the shelves of their favorite gas station.

They look exactly like hard liquor but what are they really?

Shoppers would expect to see those mini-bottles at ABC liquor stores. However, they won't be found there . at least not yet.

They're currently just being sold at gas stations. Also, it's not really liquor.

An entire display set up next to the cashier at one local gas station showcases names like Hobble Creek, Stroyski or Flash Point.

They're names one would typically associate with bourbon, vodka or Fireball. Well, they're not.

All one has to do is read the small print on the label and they'll see it's actually flavored grape wine.

Each one is 16 percent alcohol by volume and 32 proof, and sold in the same stores one would find beer and wine.

There were also bottles that look like extra dry gin, tequila and spiced rum sold in handles for around $11.

One liquor store owner said he hadn't seen or heard of the drinks until a WMBF News reporter walked in with the bottles

"Eventually those people are going to try and buy that particular item and find out they are either disappointed or it doesn't meet their expectations," said Chris Bianco, owner of Gray Man Spirits in The Market Common. "I think that's sad for both the product and I think it's sad for the institution selling them."

"It's horrible and doesn't taste like alcohol," said Myrtle Beach resident Jay Gray after taking a sip.

On Ice

I appreciate that the melting ice cubes add some dilution to the cinnamon flavor, but it’s only a minor relief. Honestly there’s not much you’re going to do that will improve this situation.

One thing I appreciate about the added ice is that it allows you to see just how much sugar is actually in this stuff. If you look closely in the picture above, you can see the heavier sugar saturated spirit interacting with the lighter water from the ice cube and creating a swirling pattern in the fluid. You’ll see the same thing with any spirit and the alcohol content, but usually the swirls tend to move around. Here they just sit on top of each other, the heavy sugary liquid almost completely stationary.

Bailey’s Comet

1 + 1/2 oz Bailey’s Irish Cream
1+ 1/2 oz Butterscotch Schnapps
3/4 oz Goldschlager
1 tbsp 151 Rum
1 dash Cinnamon

Shake the Bailey‘s, butterscotch schnapps, and Goldschlager with ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into a cocktail glass. Put a shallow layer of 151-proof rum on top. Light the rum on fire, then immediately sprinkle a generous dash of cinnamon on top. The cinnamon will sparkle and flame. Don’t let it burn too long, or the Bailey’s will curdle! Prepare for a hangover. [Recipe courtesy of Drink Nation]

Whiskey for Breakfast?! These Spiked Bagels Will Wake You Up Quick

By 2011, Fireball was selling 45,000 cases a year and racking up around $1.9 million in shelf sales. Two years later, it would top $61 million. (Neither of those numbers account for bar purchases, either.) IRI, a research group that tracks analytics, estimates that by 2014 the brand was doing more than $800 million in sales both off the shelf at liquor stores, and in the bar.

So again, why so popular? The jury is out on any single factor that can account for the massive growth. One reason could be that at only 66 proof, it’s much easier to take a shot of Fireball than of your more traditional (read: actual) whiskeys. Another could be that it's readily available. and that a cinnamon after-taste is far preferable to the aftertaste of a shot of vodka. Maybe it’s because Fireball is relatively cheap compared to other bottles of spirits. Maybe people like the little fire demon on the label. Maybe the fact that it’s popular is, in-turn, making it more popular. Or maybe it's some combination of them all: A perfect storm of availability, affordability, and likability that is more-often than not the secret recipe for any product’s long-term success.

And other brands have taken notice.

Brown-Forman Corporation, the company behind Jack Daniels, noticed Fireball’s success and released its own cinnamon-toasted liquor, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire. The 66-proof cinnamon blended whiskey and it’ bright red and gold branding could be said to bear a striking resemblance to Fireball. So much so that Sazerac filed a lawsuit against Brown-Forman when they used “Fireball” as an ad word on Google, claiming that using the term for advertising infringed on Fireball’s trademark. (The parties settled the suit out of court).

But now after years of dominance, could the cinnamon-whiskey train finally be losing steam? Yes, it seems.

A 2015 Fox Business report quoted an expert who estimated that the high-water mark for cinnamon whiskey sales was likely going to hit within the next 12 to 24 months. and he appears to have been right. While there’s no doubt the incredible boom from the previous decade was unsustainable — new growth has been slowing down over the last two years — Fireball is unlikely to stop being a billion-dollar brand anytime soon.

How Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey Became a Billion-Dollar Brand

Image source: Shea Huening via Flickr.

If you've had a shot in a bar in the past 12 months, you're probably familiar with Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey. The flavored whiskey with a kick of spice has gone from a forgotten brand to the hottest shot in the world almost overnight, kicking Jagermeister off of its post as "go-to" shot.

The story of how Fireball came to be a billion-dollar brand reads like a rags-to-riches story born in the midst of the college party scene.

The under-appreciated doctor
From an alcoholic beverage standpoint, Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey has been around for about three decades. It was developed in the mid-1980s and sold, primarily in Canada, as Dr. McGillicuddy's Fireball Whiskey. Dr. McGillicuddy's has something of a cult following in parts of the country, but it's never been a household name like Fireball has become today.

In 1989, Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, who owned the Dr. McGillicuddy line, sold its rights to The Sazerac Company, who has owned it ever since. Still, for 18 years, Fireball stood almost unnoticed under the Dr. McGillicuddy brand.

Shots are Fireball's friend. Image source: Ted Van Pelt via Flickr.

Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey is born
In 2007, Dr. McGillicuddy's Fireball Whiskey got a kick from a rebranding campaign and a new name: Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey. It may have been an old recipe, but the new look and feel of the logo gave the product a cool factor Dr. McGillicuddy never had. Brand rep Richard Pomes made Nashville his early target market, selling the liquor as an easy shot for the city's party scene. The strategy then shifted to include college markets, and it spread around the country like wildfire.

By 2011, retail sales of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey were still just $1.9 million, according to research company IRI, but sales were exploding. By 2014, that figure had exploded to $131 million, and Fireball was a household name.

Add in the bar scene, and the numbers are even more impressive. IWSR, which provides data for wine and spirits, estimates that Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey made $863.5 million in sales last year -- double the year before, and easily topping the $525.3 million made by Jagermeister.

"Jag" used to be the go-to shot at bars and in college, but Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey's easy-to-drink flavor and low price point has made it a must-have on Friday and Saturday nights.

Keys to Fireball's success
Making an under-the-radar drink into an international phenomenon isn't easy, but there are a few things Fireball has working in its favor:

  • Easy to drink: The reaction I often hear from someone trying Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey for the first time is something like, "That's pretty good." Not a bad reaction compared to shots (vodka, tequila, whiskey) people usually cringe at taking.
  • Cheap: A liter of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey is about $24, around $2-$3 less than Jagermeister. On college campuses, even a couple of dollars' difference can go a long way.
  • Easy to remember: You've probably been at the bar and asked, "What shot should we take?" Fireball is not only a favorite, but it's an easy shot to remember, making it a quick order for large groups.

A shot that's cheap, tasty, and easy to remember has combined with a little marketing genius to become the favorite drink we know today. But competitors aren't going to let Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey become a billion-dollar brand without a fight.

Can Fireball hold off competitors as they heat up?
Jim Beam and Jack Daniels are trying to turn their whiskeys into successful shots with Kentucky Fire and Tennessee Fire, respectively. It's tough to knock an incumbent like Fireball off the pedestal with a direct competitor, but Fireball may already be peaking. IWSR says sales are flat from its peak in December 2014, and considering its rise to the top, I wouldn't be surprised to see a slowdown soon.

The party may not last forever, but the story of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey rising from the ashes of a forgotten brand to become the world's favorite party shot is an amazing one. If someone could replicate, it there could be another billion-dollar brand hidden somewhere in the world of booze. But replicating Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey's success will be easier said than done.

Colt 45

The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

If you are in the mood for an energy drink but don't want to drop the Jäger bomb, the Colt 45 is an excellent alternative. It's more like a vodka Red Bull but with a gin and Jäger twist. The high-octane drink is easy to mix up and has many dedicated fans, so you know there's something to it.

The key to creating a palatable spicy drink is to go slow. Start with a small amount of the hot ingredient and build it up to your taste the next time you make that drink. Alcohol tends to intensify the heat, so if your first drink of the night burns your taste buds, it's hard for them to bounce back.

Spicy cocktails require more attention to balance than many other styles of drinks. For this reason, it's a good idea to start out with tested recipes. By doing so, you will learn how jalapeños, habaneros, and hot sauces react when they're mixed.

You will also notice that many of these recipes pair the spicy element with sweeter or cooling mixers that put out a bit of the fire. Fruits like mango, grapefruit, and orange are perfect for this job and the contrast of flavors is invigorating.