SHOTS! SHOTS! SHOTS! Whether you “do” them or “take” them, you’re buying them and in huge volumes. Shots are the great equalizer, washing out of the way anything that stands between you and a good time. If it got any more primal, you’d be drinking from the bottle! You savages …
I recently did formal and informal polls looking for the top shots in town. Some results made sense: At the Silverton casino bars, it’s Jack Daniel’s. Yeehaw! Some did not: At T&T Tacos & Tequila, it’s the Jägerbomb. Hmmm. So, where’s the tequila? It’s at the Wynn nightclubs and at all of Tao Group’s venues, where partiers get straight to the point with Patrón Silver. Surprisingly, Patrón is also the most requested shot at restaurants, such as Central by Michel Richard and Honey Salt.
But one shot that’s hot from dance floors to Downtown is Fireball. The low-proof cinnamon-flavored, whiskey-based liqueur is a winter staple on the slopes and at mountain-town après skis, but for some reason, despite the summer heat, Fireball is quickly becoming the No. 1 shot year-round at casino bars (Venetian/Palazzo), pools (MGM Grand), Downtown (Commonwealth), after-hours clubs (Posh) and even whiskey-focused steakhouses such as Delmonico.
Fireball is also the No. 1 shot at all Light Group venues. “Everyone is drinking it!” the group’s corporate mixologist Mike Monrreal says. “I see a lot of people ordering it who wouldn’t normally drink whiskey, especially girls. Groups of girls are doing this now instead of tequila or vodka.” And where it’s not the No. 1, it’s No. 2 with a bullet.
Allow me a moment’s time on the soapbox: Fireball’s not a whiskey; it’s bottled with sugar and lots of it, so it’s a whiskey-based liqueur. Yes, you’re pounding shots of syrup and calling it whiskey. That said, it’s sweet, spicy and reminds me of the Atomic Fireball candies I sucked on till I cried—I do see the appeal. And if it gets more people at least looking at the whiskey list, fine. Just remember this: Every time a hipster Beard-o orders FireBall and thinks he’s living the authentic life, a cowboy cries.
Now I’ll let the bean counters have the floor. According to GuestMetrics, Fireball saw a 16-point increase in its distribution and sales that nearly doubled between the second quarters of 2012 and 2013, the largest increase out of more than 5,000 brands. What does that mean? It means Fireball is everywhere. And if your bar doesn’t have it, they might be making their own.
Such is the case at Sugar Factory, where bar manager Greg Waters makes house-infused cinnamon rye whiskey, the Sugar Factory Fireball ($14.50). “I find that Fireball shots have too much cinnamon schnapps and not enough whiskey,” says the Oklahoma native. “So I set out to see if I could do it better,” an activity that perfectly aligns with his mantra: “Rules kill creativity.” Speaking of rules, since no sugar or syrup is added, his is actually an infused whiskey. The trick to omitting sugar is Waters’ choice of Pendleton 1910 Canadian rye whiskey. “It has just enough sweetness to complement the cinnamon without being syrupy sweet like Fireball can be,” he says.
Ready to make your own cinnamon-infused whiskey? Place five cinnamon sticks into a 750-milliliter bottle of whiskey and refrigerate for 3-5 days, keeping in mind that some cinnamon is stronger than other. Start tasting after two days, and when you like it, double-strain out the solids and seal it in a bottle. To serve, add 1½ ounces to an 8-ounce rocks glass or 2 ounces with a quality ice cube.
Still longing for that authentic life, Beard-o? The Sugar Factory Fireball’s not on the menu, so you have to actually ask for it by name.