I was often first up for a challenge shot in my barely-legal days, because of a slight advantage. The edge wasn't toughness. No, I was one of the few members of my cohort who actually liked the taste of cheap tequila.
However, the times were way ahead of me when I drank my first Jägerbomb last month. "Never stop at one," my friend Richie advised, "First JB tastes like poison. Second JB tastes like gasoline. Third and all others taste like fresh springwater on a hot summer day..."
The fourth Jägerbomb proved Richie's wisdom, and I could've easily gone on with the fascinating taste, but the Red Bull was red-lining my adrenals.
A New Challenge
This week I decided to surf the next wave before it crested, and that wave is Fireball Cinnamon Whisky. "We love Fireball!" said another friend, who decided she should remain anonymous, "We buy jugs of the stuff."
I went the other way for this test, buying just a pint. There's something wonderfully tawdry about buying a pint of any liquor, with bonus points for a plastic bottle.
Where's the Whisky?
The label says Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, and the "whisky" without with the "e" indicates it's Canadian. Whisky from Canada is a blend of the sweet taste of corn mash with spicy notes of rye, and this smooth style of the spirit is the preferred taste of many Texan whiskey-drinkers.
Fireball is produced by Sazerac, the parent company of my favorite cheap bourbon, Buffalo Trace, so the pedigree checked out. I asked my friend Louis--who can ease halfway into a bottle of Blanton's with no visible effect--to egg me on.
The first shot was smooth, delicious, and indeed fiery. It tasted exactly like Atomic Fireball Cinnamon Candy--those little red-hot balls with the hard-to-open plastic wrappers. There's little indication of any whisky flavor. Fireball Whisky is just pure liquid cinnamon burn, and it's pure fun.
I had no competitive advantage here, because everyone seems to love the taste of Fireball A shot of it warms the innards, whether you're ice-fishing in Saskatchewan, or chillin' in an overly-air-conditioned Houston bar.
This story continues on the next page.
By the third shot, Louis and I were starting to taste a problem. Fireball is sweet, and this reminded me of the man who, if anybody, is the patron saint of American drinking. Ernest Hemingway hated sugar in his drinks, said it made him sick and gave him a hangover. So he concocted the ultimate challenge cocktail--the Papa Doble--a drink with nearly 4 ounces of Bacardi rum, 3 ounces of grapefruit juice, ½ ounce of Key lime juice, and a mere 6 drops of Luxardo Maraschino as sweetener. A Doble is so impossibly sour, it shuts down your face. Most people can't make it through the first one, but if you do, you can drink them all night (16 was Hemingway's record).
For the Fireball, the fourth shot was still good, but after the fifth I was listening to Hemingway. Louis drank #6 for the win, then shifted. "Good gawd, this is tasty, but give me some real whiskey. Whiskey with an 'e' please."
I poured him a tumbler full of bourbon, and for myself, a glass of tequila. Not the cheap stuff.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.