A few weeks ago, 4 families on our street with similarly-aged daughters all went Christmas Tree hunting. For those of you have have never performed this winter ritual, it involves driving out into the country to a Xmas Tree farm (if you’re the law-abiding sort), walking deep into the property to where the best trees are, wandering around in the snow for a while until you find the perfect tree, then cutting it down with a bucksaw and dragging it back out.
Depending on the weather and snow depth, it can be chilly work. So another part of the tradition is to bring along a little something to warm one’s cockles, if you know what I mean. On this trip, one of the ladies brought along a small bottle of “Fireball.” It’s basically a liqueur-strength treatment of Canadian Rye Whiskey heavily flavoured with cinnamon and pepper. It’s lower alcohol content means that even unhardened drinkers can take it straight, and then get a hot rush of spiciness followed by a slight burn from the whiskey. So it does feel like it’s actually warming you up – perfect for out in the cold.
The key word there is “out” – one of the ladies (Kim) observed that she could not remember ever drinking Fireball from a glass; only ever straight from the bottle. It’s almost always consumed outside, where glasses are scarce. We went on to wonder what sort of glass one would even serve it in, so they asked me, the ex-bartender. I replied that nothing like it existed when I was bartending, but the closest thing, peppermint schnapps, was almost always served as part of a shooter.
Fireball is the same as all the not-quite 40% alcohol-by-volume liquors like Jagermeister that have been invented in the last 20 years to get kids drunk faster. I think the marketing idea went something like this: “OK, for 20 years (1970 – 1990), we got kids drunk by selling them “shooters”, which had enough alcohol to seem daring, but were still drinkable by newbies because you didn’t really taste the alcohol, and it was reduced from full strength by the addition of juice or lower-octane liqueurs. (E.g. the grandpa of all shooters, the B-52, is made from Grand Marnier (40%), Baileys Irish Cream (17%), and Kahlua (26%).) Then the kids started wanting something even more risqué – something “straight.” So we gave them 33% strength booze, and made it taste like candy.”