“Tastes like Heaven, burns like Hell.” Love it or hate it. Not real whisky. Frat parties. Shots, shots, shots. Canada.

An awful lot is said about Fireball. For a simple cinnamon-flavoured whisky liqueur, it has quite a reputation. But what is the story of this syrupy sweet, much-maligned beverage? 

Pouring a drink of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky Liqueur

How familair are you with Fireball Cinnamon Whisky Liqueur?

The story of Fireball

Fireball has one of those dubious mythical origin stories that tells tale of a Canadian bartender trying to bring some warmth into those cold North Atlantic nights. Whisky on its own wouldn’t do, supposedly, so they added sugar and cinnamon. A fireball leapt out of the glass like when Homer made his signature Flaming Homer and the rest is history. In the same way that Ice Road Truckers is on the History Channel.

The verifiable beginnings of Fireball date back to the mid-1980s, when *insert 80s stereotypes about yuppies, suspenders, and CDs*. The Seagram company introduced the liqueur in Canada in 1984 (maybe this is what Orwell should have been warning us about?) as part of a line of flavoured schnapps with the ridiculous name “Dr. McGillicuddy’s Fireball Whisky.” What’s next, creating a cold compound gin and attributing it to some mysterious old Victorian professor with a name like Cornelius Ampleforth? 

After the Sazerac Company acquired the company, the product was brought excitingly into the 21st century. Re-named ‘Fireball’, it was taken beyond Canada in 2001 and backed by successive aggressive marketing campaigns. It became a feature of the bar scene, the kind of drink that would be liberally poured across a sticky tray of shot glasses and knocked back in the name of good old-fashioned hedonism. The red, fire-breathing dragon on the label championing each fiery kick (the label came courtesy of Ross Sutherland, of Black Magic rum and Wheatley Vodka fame). 

With the rise of social media, the brand took to it like a duck to cinnamon-flavoured water and utilised Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to help propel Fireball into the spotlight. Fireball today is a staple of pop culture, frequently referenced in media from songs to films and ranks as one of the best-selling whiskies in the U.S., if you consider it a whisky. Which we don’t. But we’ll get to that. Regardless, it sells like cinnamon hotcakes. 

Memes made about Fireball Cinnamon Whisky Liqueur

These are the kinds of memes the Fireball brand makes about itself

How is Fireball made?

Fireball is one of those products that is made to a “secret formula”. While the brand is tight-lipped on specifics, everyone knows that the core recipe is Canadian whisky, natural cinnamon flavours, and sweeteners. 

Sazerac doesn’t reveal where the whisky comes from. It owns the Old Montreal Distillery, formerly the manufacturing site of Corby Distilleries Limited (bought by Sazerac in 2011), but it also owns Canadian Mist which is distilled in Collingwood, Ontario. Both possibilities. Incidentally, Sazerac runs Buffalo Trace Distillery, and I like to think there’s been some overarching strategy meeting related to production where Fireball and Pappy Van Winkle have been mentioned in the same breath.

The brand also makes Fireball Cinnamon, which is not a whisky-based product but a “malt-based or wine-based” product bottled to half the ABV. This allows it to be sold in beer, malt beverage and wine stores in the US, not just the bars, restaurants, and liquor stores Fireball Whisky is limited to. This is quite confusing and that lack of distinction actually led to a lawsuit. The brand’s website has an FAQ section which addresses the difference. 

Fireball has also released several limited-edition bottles and collaborated with other brands for special promotions. Just last year came Fireball Dragnum in August, in a Champagne-style bottle, then the Fireball Dragnum Classy Collection which contained two crystal shot glass flutes, Dragon Egg Caviar, and a giant bottle of Fireball Dragnum. 

A shot of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky Liqueur

Love it or hate it – where do you stand on Fireball?

What does Fireball taste like?

Fireball liqueur is known for its fiery, sweet, and spicy taste driven primarily by the addition of cinnamon. People often compare it to red-hot cinnamon candies or cinnamon gum. This is complemented by a sugary sweetness and a bit of warmth and weight from the alcohol. 

As much as Fireball has a bold social media presence and is associated with the more debauched side of nightlife, its character is where it divides opinion most. Cinnamon is something of an acquired taste to start with, with its intense brand of sweetness, spice, and bitterness not for everyone, but it’s also the artificial sweetness of the drink that will always be off-putting for purists. Especially those who take whisky seriously. But that same quality that makes it unappealing for some is exactly what others like, it’s sweet and spicy and “easier to drink than real whisky” and it’s all a bit of fun at the end of a night out. Look at Fireball’s social media, lots of people are passionate about it, on both sides of the aisle. There are plenty endorsing the brand but then also those putting Fireball down. 

How do you drink Fireball?

The vast majority of Fireball is consumed as a shot. Grab a shot glass, pour away, bottoms up. You can take it further by mixing it with one part Irish cream like Baileys to create the Fire Alarm. The current world record for most Fireball shots taken at once was 4,750 shots, which was set on 17 March, St. Patrick’s Day 2012 in Nashville, something of a Fireball mecca.

You can add ice to Fireball too, of course. Or drink it straight from the freezer. Another common way to drink Fireball is to use it in a Boilermaker-style pairing. The brand recommends its Cold Beer, Hot Shot combo. You knock back the shot then chase it with either a cold beer or local brew. There’s also the Backdraft, the same principle but with Guinness. The horrifyingly named Angry Balls recommends a similar pairing with a cider, or hard cider to the Americans, while The Hard Seltzer On Fire serve is also not dissimilar but entails you pouring a shot of Fireball into your can of hard seltzer to ramp things up. 

Fireball can also be used in cocktails or mixed drinks. Some people have even used it in cooking or baking recipes. Fireball glaze, anyone?

Different ways of serving Fireball Cinnamon Whisky Liqueur

There are lots of different ways to drink Fireball

What mixes good with Fireball?

Great question, internet. Fireball has a dedicated recipe page on its website with simple serves like combining the liqueur with an array of mixers. Are you ready? Deep breath… You can mix Fireball with lemonade, ginger ale, iced tea, cream soda, pineapple juice, energy drinks, coffee, root beer, or cola. The brand also has twists on classics like a Fireball Margarita or the Fireball Manhattan.

Can you drink Fireball straight?

So drinking Fireball neat usually means as a shot, but it doesn’t have to. You might want to drink it neat in a Glencairn glass and then imitate snooty whisky writers. More power to you. 

Is Fireball actually whiskey?


Most countries, like Scotland or America, say that whisky must be bottled at a minimum of 40% ABV. Fireball is 33% ABV. One of those countries is Canada and as Fireball is also a Canadian brand, it is beholden to Canadian Food and Drug Regulations, which state that whisky must “contain not less than 40% alcohol by volume.” 

Fireball does contain Canadian whisky, but the lower ABV and the addition of sweeteners and cinnamon spice take it out of the whisky category and into something else. Some people would call it a flavoured whiskey, others a liqueur. 

Why is Fireball illegal in Europe?

It isn’t, but there’s a reason why people think that. Fireball used to contain a chemical used in anti-freeze, a fact which, for some reason, Europeans objected to (“anti-freeze in the wine, that is a very serious crime!”). Sales of Fireball were “temporarily halted” in Norway, Sweden, and Finland in 2014, which Fireball officially said was “due to a small recipe-related compliance issue.” 

The chemical in question was propylene glycol. It was in there because it’s said to enhance flavour by absorbing water, but it’s also a slightly less toxic cousin of the compound ethylene glycol, which was in anti-freeze. Concern was raised that there was some relation between this chemical and one used to de-ice aeroplanes and Fireball recalled its European bottles. In the US, nothing was recalled as both the FDA and CDC have deemed propylene glycol as “generally recognized as safe” at low levels of consumption and you’ll find it all over the place from ice cream to cosmetics. Phew. 

Still, Fireball removed the chemical from its recipe.

A party with Fireball Cinnamon Whisky Liqueur

If you want to see what all the fuss is about you can buy Fireball from Master of Malt

Alternatives to Fireball

You can buy Fireball by heading to our dedicated product page which has pictures and everything. If you like the idea of a cinnamon-infused whisky liqueur but aren’t convinced that Fireball is the one for you, then we also have plenty of alternatives:

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire 70cl

This is Jack Daniel’s cinnamon-flavoured whisky liqueur – Jack Daniel’s Fire! Does exactly what it says on the tin.

Charlie Parry’s Cinnamon Bourbon Liqueur 50cl

Charlie Parry’s Cinnamon Bourbon Liqueur is made in the US and then shipped to Wales, famously the home of cinnamon, to be infused with it to create this fiery little liqueur.

Ole Smoky Moonshine Cinnamon 50cl

This is a cinnamon moonshine from the folks at Ole Smoky in Tennessee. Built around a traditional neutral grain spirit base, this expression is flavoured with the cosy, pungent spice of natural cinnamon – a perfect winter warmer sipped neat, or splashed in your hot drinks!

Christmas Cake & Dark Chocolate & Medjool Dates & Cinnamon 8 Year Old Whisky 70cl

Single malt Scotch whisky here with a big kick of cinnamon. It’s not flavoured at all, just good ol’ Speyside whisky aged for eight years in casks. It represents a more refined, elegant option for those who drink their tea with their pinky finger in the air.