You may have heard the recent reports of Fireball Whisky, a spicy crowd pleaser around the globe, being recalled in some European countries such as Finland and Sweden. For many Americans, this has raised some concern. For others, the prospect of forfeiting their favorite party drink has broached the pressing question, “but how bad is it really?”
Why are people freaking out?
The culprit of this whole conundrum is propylene glycol, an organic alcohol often used in antifreeze. While no one particularly wants to think about a chemical that’s in antifreeze floating around in his or her body, the FDA has maintained, “propylene glycol can be ingested over long periods of time and in substantial quantities (up to 5% of the total food intake) without causing frank toxic effects.” Basically, it is safe to drink in reasonable amounts. However, if you aren’t particularly excited to ingest propylene glycol, you might want to reconsider the several other foods in which it is often found, such as frosting and ice cream. Check out these other food products that contain it.
Will I see any effects on my health if I drink it?
While at higher doses (“lethal doses” are considered 6 g per kg or higher) the chemical has resulted in kidney damage in chicks, the amount found in Fireball is not expected to cause any internal damage to humans. Assuming you are drinking semi-responsibly (or even going a little overboard), the dosage shouldn’t cause any demonstrable harm. The Environmental Working Group has noted minor skin irritation as a side effect, which could already be expected from a cinnamon-flavored alcohol. The “overall hazard” rating is considered “low.”
What’s the outcome?
According to an interview with TIME, Harvard & Stone (L.A.) bar manager, Yael Vengroff, does not believe that the recall will hurt Fireball in the long run. “I don’t feel like its market and drinkers are in the business of playing it safe, if you will,” said Vengroff. Still, the prospect of drinking antifreeze is understandably unnerving, and so, bartenders have catered to the more cautious population. “Mixologists” are creating “artisanal” versions of the whiskey with ingredients that create the same effect without the health concerns. Check out ChurckKey’s recipe for makeshift fireball using chili flakes and cinnamon sticks. Another option is Ogden’s Old Firewhiskey, made with a special secret ingredient (Hint: it’s Red Hots). This is a great opportunity to try your hand at bartending by making your own hot whiskey.
The bottom line:
As of now, it seems safe to continue to drink Fireball, as long as it’s consumed in reasonable amounts. In the meantime, it might also be a time to consider healthier alternatives, or at least begin the search for a new “usual.” As always, drink responsibly, and enjoy!