WASHINGTON, DC: It’s said that Fireball “tastes like heaven, and burns like hell.”
But could it be that what Fireball, a popular bar shot infused with the bracing cinnamon flavor of a wad of Big Red gum, actually tastes like is America? Because for reasons not entirely clear, this sickly sweet shot favored by college kids has suddenly been deemed the go-to quaff of the Trump administration.
Celebrating President Donald Trump’s inauguration last month, a reveler at the Old Ebbitt Grill here demanded Fireball for his “Republican friends,” according to an account in Washingtonian magazine. The Huffington Post announced: “Fireball Now Comes In Boxes – Just In Time For Trump’s Inauguration!” And from Elite Daily: “Trump Staff’s Drink Of Choice Is Fireball, And Now Everything Makes Sense.”
“It’s easy drinking, I’ll be honest with you,” says Corey Lockett, owner of the Mason Inn in Washington. But he doesn’t buy the notion that Trump administration staffers and fans are igniting a run on the stuff.
“Trump supporters, they’re happy, and so they’re taking more shots these days,” he says. “Fireball is just such an easy one to drink.”
And, he adds, at $5 or $6 for a two-ounce pour, “it’s cheaper than drinking a shot of Patron.”
At a time when political battles are being waged over running shoes, breakfast foods and car-sharing services, it was probably inevitable that a drink would be drawn into the fray. Washington’s bar scene has long had its quiet divisions – bars frequented by Republicans, bars that Democrats prefer.
But why Fireball, specifically?
We have a few ideas. Originally sold as Dr. McGillicuddy’s Fireball Whisky, the drink was marketed in the 1980s as schnapps by the Seagram company. After Sazerac, a Louisiana-based beverage giant with some of the nation’s priciest whiskeys on its roster, purchased the brand, it pared the name down to something easier to call out to a bartender in the haze of a Saturday night. Bartender lore and data suggest that Republicans are the party most infatuated with whiskey. (Though, at only 33 percent alcohol, Fireball is nowhere near as potent as a stiff bourbon.)
Then there’s the fact that bro-country bands seem to love the stuff: “That Fireball whiskey whispers temptation in my ear,” sing the Florida Georgia Line on their hit “Round Here.”
The Mason Inn, which “has a huge Fireball following,” according to Lockett, is in a neighborhood long recognized as a stronghold of the city’s more conservative-minded residents. “There are a lot of Southerners who’ve ended up here,” Lockett says.
Bryce Yetso, beverage director for the Old Ebbitt, which is near the White House, offers this: Fireball did sell, but mostly, it was bottles of the good stuff that emptied over inauguration weekend. “Honestly, the week of the inauguration, we sold a ton of whiskey in general,” he says.
Look elsewhere, Lockett adds. It’s probably not Republicans driving the trend.
“There’s probably some bartender somewhere who started it. Bartenders like the shot, so bartenders start recommending the shot,” says Lockett, who has been in the business for more than 20 years. Trends, from Jägermeister shots to apple martinis to today’s craft cocktails, are often “pushed by the bar staff.”
Oh, and there’s one more reason Fireball may not be the favored drink of Trump-voting patriots.
It’s made in Canada.
(The Washington Post)