The maker of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey has been sued for fraud for selling a drink that, at a glance, looks like the spicy Fireball spirit famous for being ubiquitous at college parties, but doesn’t actually contain much of its key ingredient: whiskey.
The disputed malt drink, called “Fireball Cinnamon,” has a lower alcohol content than that of its whiskey cousin and can be sold in grocery stores and gas stations across the country. Comes in multiple sizes.
said the plaintiff, Ana Marquez of Chicago suit She bought Fireball Cinnamon unaware that it was a different product than the whiskey she expected. The lawsuit, filed this month in US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, said Ms. Marquis “resembles many alcoholic beverage consumers who prefer distilled spirits or products containing distilled spirits to beverages containing malt.” Ms. Marquis is seeking more than $5 million.
Sazerac, which makes both drinks, does not comment on the ongoing lawsuit, a company spokeswoman said. On the company’s website, a Frequently Asked Questions The Fireball Cinnamon page says that the malt drink, unlike whiskey, can be sold in the 170,000 stores in the United States that are allowed to sell beer and wine but not spirits.
Malt drinks, such as hard sodas and wine coolers, have a fermented base and are usually flavored. Sazerac said on its website that its malt Fireball Cinnamon was 33 proof and its Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey was 66 proof.
The suit said Sazerac’s representations of Fireball Cinnamon were “false and misleading” and that the bottles “looked similar” to bottles of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey.
Both bottles have a red cap, a yellow label that reads “Fireball,” and a logo that features a red fire-breathing dragon-like creature. The main difference is that a product is described on the bottle as “cinnamon whiskey”, and the malt drink is described exactly as “cinnamon”.
The Fireball Cinnamon bottle also describes the contents as “a malt beverage with natural whiskey and other flavors and a caramel color.”
The lawsuit said that “natural whiskey and other flavors” was a “clever turn of phrase” because people might mistake it for “natural whiskey,” thinking it was a reference to spirit, and not understand that it was a flavor.
This marketing also allows the product to be sold at a “premium price” of 99 cents for 50 milliliters, the suit said.
The lawsuit cites two columns about how confusing the labeling was. in Article published in April 2021 in The Albany Times UnionWriter Steve Barnes said his friend “who sells booze for a living” had heard from customers in liquor stores who said they were frustrated because customers thought Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey was being sold in grocery stores, and didn’t realize it was a Fireball Cinnamon product.
The attorney who filed the suit, Spencer Sheehan, has filed more than 400 lawsuits targeting food and beverage companies, NPR reported in 2021. Many of these lawsuits accuse companies of misleading labeling of products, such as foods that are described as being flavored with vanilla, but actually use synthetic vanilla instead of vanilla beans or vanilla extract.
Mr. Sheehan is seeking class action status for the lawsuit to cover people who purchased Fireball Cinnamon in 12 states, including Illinois, Wyoming and Arizona.
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