Were you all excited to serve up shots of Fireball Whiskey at your Halloween party, until all those news stories came out about it containing propylene glycol, the same ingredient that’s in environmentally friendly antifreeze? Not to worry! Melrose Umbrella Co.’s co-owner Zachary Patterson shared his recipe for his bar’s popular Fireball stand-in, “Fire Water.”
Patterson and bartender Josh Goldman thought up their homemade version while brainstorming liquors that were popular but weren’t crafty. “Of course Fireball was one of them because it’s the number-one-selling liqueur in the U.S. So we were talking about that and how it’s not a very quality made product. The thing is, it could be,” said Patterson.
Then Goldman discovered a recipe for a cinnamon cordial in the 1891 cocktail book, The Flowing Bowl. The 19th-century recipe calls for brandy but the barmen thought it would be perfect with a whiskey. So they experimented with different whiskies and came up with 10 batches of cinnamon whiskey before finally settling on the one made with High West Double Rye. “Just the spice with the rye and the cinnamon pairs so well with that. It has extra heat without actually giving it extra alcohol,” said Patterson. “It takes you back to the old atomic fireballs.”
Instead of using common supermarket cassia bark, Patterson springs a little more money for Ceylon cinnamon which, according to him, gives a much truer cinnamon flavor without being obtrusive. And while he cryovacs and sous vides his cinnamon water–cooking with a higher temperature allows more aromatic flavors to come through–he says folks at home can simply make a cinnamon simple syrup and add that to the High West.
When creating the cordial, MUC managed to match Fireball’s 33 percent proof. But that’s where the similarity ends. Patterson and I did a taste test of the two flavored whiskies and here are our impressions for your consideration.
- Appearance: A dark gold color. Very light and transparent compared to the Fire Water. You can read through it.
- Nose: Very light and subtle.
- Taste: Reminds me of Big Red gum and maybe Red Hots, but it isn’t as sickly sweet as I thought it was going to be. It does have a lingering burn that travels from your tongue down your throat. Now I understand why the uninitiated make that face after taking a swig.
Patterson: “Yeah, that is why I don’t drink that. That burn it’s not your normal alcohol burn. That’s bad distillate burn. This leads me to believe that the base whiskey is not a good distillate. Cinnamon will leave a slight hot feeling but that burn is a lingering medicinal one. Painful back-of-the-throat burn. It’s really not good. And that aftertaste just lingers and makes me want to gag. Just like a paint thinning, medicinal, lingering finish. I don’t want it in my mouth anymore.”
Melrose Umbrella Co.’s Fire Water
- Appearance: Almost looks like black tea that’s steeped too long. Could barely read through it.
- Nose: A warm, potent whiff of cinnamon.
- Taste: A lot of spiciness midpalate and doesn’t have that painful, back-of-the-throat burn.
Patterson: “That’s the cinnamon that’s coating your tongue and drying out your tongue a little bit and you feel a warmth and a burn but it’s deep down. Spice from the rye whiskey as well as the cinnamon playing together. That cinnamon just coats the mouth. Doesn’t have that lingering, painful back-of-the-throat burn.”
The Fire Water would be an excellent way to spike hot apple cider. “You don’t need to do anything else. It’s got a sweet component to it, it’s got the cinnamon, it’s got the whiskey.” Or play around with different shot combinations. But be warned, since this is a tastier cinnamon whiskey, you’ll end up wanting to sip it rather than shoot it.