Maynard, MA, USA: Beacon-Villager newspaper column on local history, observations on nature and recreational activities, plus an occasional health-related article. Columns from 2009-11 collected into book "MAYNARD: History and Life Outdoors." Columns from 2012-14 collected into book "Hidden History of Maynard." - David A. Mark
Fireball Cinnamon Whisky (so spelled) is a billion dollar a
year business. It’s an acquired taste: cheap whiskey plus water (the end product
is only 33% alcohol), sugar and cinnamon. As a brand, it grew from an obscure
history. Dr. McGillicuddy's Fireball Whiskey was one of many flavored alcohol
products under the McGillicuddy brand, which had originated with Seagram in the
1980s, then sold to the Sazerac Company in 1989. Fireball was renamed 2007 and provided
with the red, fire-breathing dragon label image and the slogan “Tastes Like
Heaven, BURNS LIKE HELL.” Fireball is currently the best-selling liqueur in the
United States. However, at The Whiskey Wash, a whiskey review site, it was
ranked fourth out of five among cinnamon-flavored whiskeys (Jim Beam Kentucky
Fire, first). Fireball’s description including “…intensely chemical aroma…distressingly
viscous and alarmingly sweet…very little in the way of whiskey
"FIREBALL Cinnamon Whiskey" These
miniature bottles hold 50 ml = 1.7 ounces.
Fireball appears to also be the most likely to be littered
alcohol miniature bottle in the United States. An observant walk through the
streets of Maynard will spy empty miniature bottles – also known as testers,
shooters, minis and airplane bottles – with a distribution mostly not too far
from the liquor store where they were purchased. From talking to store owners,
buyers are typically adults who buy several of these small plastic bottles at a
time, and need to be deterred from starting to drink before they are out of the
Why not just buy a pint, a ‘fifth’ or a ‘handle’? A good
guess is that people who are not supposed to be drinking where they live want
something easy to conceal, something that can be drained and dropped, or else
tossed out a car window. One specious argument made for sale of minis: “A key
driver for the growth of the global spirit miniatures market is the fact that
they prove to be an ideal choice for consumers looking to reduce their alcohol
intake.” Or basically, you can’t drink what you did not buy. A saving grace is
that these now-plastic bottles do not contribute to the broken glass problem. A
‘fifth,’ by the way, used to be one-fifth of a gallon, now defined as 750 milliliters.
A ‘handle’ is a half-gallon (or now, 1.75 liters), so called because the bottle
has a handle to make pouring easier to control.
The origin of miniatures – as glass bottles – appears to
have had its start after the end of Prohibition, when people were being offered
taste-size samples of brand-name spirits after years of drinking illegal booze.
In the 1960s the airline industry found that minis could be doled out to
passengers with minimal spillage, with each bottle containing a controlled
amount of liquor. Alcohol was often free. These days a mini will set you back
$5-8 dollars. Can you bring your own booze (BYOB)? The answer is do not try to
sneak drink you own – this has led to people being arrested at flight’s end. A
few airlines are experimenting with BYOB, with the caveat that their staff have
to be asked to open and serve what you brought. Hotels got into the alcohol
miniatures business with mini-bars in the 1970s, and for a while found that
profitable, but most have phased out the hard liquor, leaving overpriced
snacks, non-alcoholic beverages and small bottles of wine.
Back to miniatures and littering. Can this problem be legislated
away? In April 2015 the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico, banned the sale of
spirits in bottles smaller than eight ounces. In October of that same year a judge
overturned the law based on interpretation that only the state has legislative
authority over liquor sales. Maine is in the middle of tackling this problem.
Sales of miniatures exceed 10,000,000 per year (40% Fireball). In 2017 the
state legislature passed a bill requiring a five cent deposit. The obstinate Governor
LePage said he would rather ban the sale entirely, claiming that minis fostered drunk driving, than create what in effect
would be a new tax. New Haven, Connecticut is considering a deposit law, but
may run afoul of state jurisdiction. In Massachusetts, a few towns have passed an
outright ban, and the state legislature is considering a state-wide, five cent
Visit this site for a scathing evaluation of five cinnamon-flavored whiskies.