How One Man Caused Fireball Whisky To Become So Popular

Anyone who has found themselves bellying up at a bar within the past decade has almost certainly seen the ubiquitous, bright red, fire-breathing, human-bodied dragon emblazoned on every bottle of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky. The official Fireball website features a scrolling banner reading "Tastes like heaven, burns like hell," which should give you some indication of the powerful punch this cinnamon-infused creation packs.

Alcohol aficionado The Drunk Pirate sings the praises of Fireball whisky's flavor, as well as its broad appeal, saying, "This stuff tastes just like you just ground up an Atomic Fireball with a set of robot teeth and chased it with a shot of Wild Turkey. Gave some to my dad — loved it. Gave a shot to my mom — loved it. Wife— loved it." 

You can down a shot of the stuff poured straight from the bottle or opt for ice-cold Fireball out of one of the company's custom-made chilling apparatuses. However, before you get your drink on, you should know the fascinating story behind Fireball Cinnamon Whisky's rise to prominence.

Fireball is just what the doctor ordered

Though its rise to prominence has largely taken place over the past decade or so, Fireball Whisky has actually been around since the '80s, though it was once sold under a different name, per The Motley Fool. Originally, it bore the peculiar title Dr. McGillicuddy's Fireball Whisky, and it was owned by alcohol company Joseph E. Seagram and Sons. It was sold to The Sazerac Company in 1989, and the company renamed the drink Fireball Cinnamon Whisky in 2007.

However, it wasn't until around the 2010s that Fireball reached the level of success it currently enjoys. Citing the Chicago-based market research firm IRI, CNN explains that Fireball sales exploded from a meager $2 million in 2011 to $63 million in 2013. 2014 saw drink sales once again grow exponentially, all the way to $130 million. According to Fortune, Jägermeister lost its status as the most popular party shot when Fireball first surpassed it, sales-wise, in 2014.

2020 saw the spirit selling around $6.3 million 9-liter cases, according to Statista.

Richard Pomes, the marketing maestro who set the world ablaze

So, how did the drink go from a strangely-named Canadian spirit to one of the most popular party drinks in the country? In all likelihood, Fireball Whisky would have never have become such a popular party drink without the efforts of one man: Richard Pomes.

In 2010, Pomes was hired as a National Brand Ambassador for Fireball (via Linkedin). CNN explains that his nationwide campaign, which involved routine social media posts detailing his exploits, centered around selling Fireball as a party shot. They explain, "​​He started in college towns and cities with vibrant bar cultures, such as Austin and Nashville, and then spread to other places." Drawing upon background as an actor, Pomes built the Fireball brand one shot at a time (via New Orleans Magazine). Since then, the successful spirit salesman has become involved in the tequila business with his Boston-Based startup Ghost Tequila, per The Detroit News.

Fireball has blazed a trail to the front of the alcohol pack, leaving a trail of scorched Earth in its wake. If you're among the few that have never given it a try, you're only a trip to your local bar away from sampling its cinnamon goodness. Just make sure you can handle the heat.