Alcohol-based or -infused chocolates have long been favorites in Europe. Discover some of the most popular international varieties as well as those gaining traction in the U.S.—plus other spiked candies such as beer brittles and absinthe lollipops.
By Tom Strenk
Combine two favorite indulgences—candy and liquor—and you’ve got a distinct gift or treat for the holiday season and other celebratory occasions.
And that would be a gift or treat for the grown ups. Because of the alcohol content, customers have to be over 21 to buy many spiked candies. (They’re banned outright in some states.) These are sophisticated confections, made with high-quality ingredients and filled or infused with top-shelf wine, spirits or beer.
“The product doesn’t look like other candies; it’s not bright red, yellow or orange-colored,” says retailer Hassan Jarane, talking about the Creme & Liquor Filled Caramels he carries at Mint Premium Foods in Tarrytown, N.Y. “This is candy for adults.”
A HOLIDAY INDULGENCE
Retailers and importers report that these amped-up candies and chocolates are big sellers for the holiday season, through New Year’s and Valentine’s Day. This is especially the case with liquor-filled chocolates. “Traditionally, liquor fills are mostly fourth-quarter sales, because of the gift-giving aspect and the party atmosphere,” notes Vicki Mirabile of Elgin, Ill.-based Chicago Importing Co. Mirabile places liquor-filled chocolates toward the front of the company’s catalog because they sell well.
There are also strong cultural customs around these chocolates. “Many European countries have a tradition of enjoying liquor-filled chocolates during the holidays,” Mirabile adds. “For Europeans, these chocolates mean Christmas.”
Anya Zelford, the owner of Gourmet Boutique in Boston, notes that one of her best-selling items is Champagne Truffles—a strawberry-flavored chocolate shell filled with champagne ganache (regular and pink) from venerable British producer Charbonnel et Walker (established in 1875). “People drink Champagne during festive times, and those occasions are when the Champagne Truffles sell: Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day,” says Zelford.
Located in the Madison, Wisc. heartland, largely populated by descendants of German, Swiss and Norwegian immigrants, Bavaria Sausage Kitchen carries a large category of liquor-filled chocolates. “Europeans have been eating them forever; it’s a tradition,” echoes Owner Judy Cottrell. Top sellers include Asbach Weinbrand Kirschen (from Germany) and Ferrero Mon Cheri (Italy); both are filled with brandy cherries. Also popular are Bohme’s Weinbrand-Bohnen, which means brandy beans, from their bean-like shape. Besides tradition-minded locals, says Cottrell, many customers taste the chocolate fills when they travel and want to buy them when they return home.
Chicago Importing Co. and importer Euro-American Brands, Paramus, N.J., stock a number of chocolates filled with wine or spirit centers. These are mostly imported from Europe where brands such as Abtey (from France), Fazer (from Finland), Anthon Berg (Denmark) and Laroshell and Bohme (Germany) have been making them for half a century or more. A new product from Abtey this year are the Douceur des Lys Dessert Chocolates, premium-quality dark, milk and white chocolates filled with refined alcohol ganache centers and coulis. They are available in four varieties: Biscuit Ganache & Rum Jelly, Ganache & Strawberry Jelly, Mousse & Kirsch Jelly and Biscuit Ganache & Cointreau Jelly.
Peters Imports, Grandville, Mich., brings to the U.S. a new tradition from the Old World: Chocolate Liqueur Bars by Andrea Stainer Chocolates of Tuscany, Italy. “One of our brokers introduced us to the Andrea Stainer line,” says Marketing Director Sharon Peters. Peters recently added to its portfolio four liqueur-infused chocolate bars: Brut Sparkling Wine, Irish Coffee, Vin Brule and Dark Chocolate with Rum. “They aren’t filled chocolates but use a patented process to infuse the liqueur flavors throughout the chocolate,” notes Peters. The chocolates are selling well for a high-end line, she adds.
Other areas of the world also have traditions of liquor-infused confections, of course. Borrachitos (translation: little drunks) have been a treat since the 1930s in Guadalajara, Mexico. In America, they are marketed under the name Creme & Liquor Filled Caramels. The fifth generation of the Aguas-Hernandez family, three brothers, make the Tequila, Coffee Liqueur and Whiskey-filled dulce de leche nuggets from an old family recipe, according to David Betts, business development manager for Atlanta-based Crown Candies, which imports them.
Europe doesn’t have the lock on alcohol-based or -infused chocolates: There’s been a plethora of innovation among chocolatiers in the U.S.
In an American riff on the European tradition, Le Cirque pastry chef-turned chocolatier Jacques Torres makes European-style filled Champagne Truffles that are shaped like wine corks and filled with prestigious Taittinger Champagne. The truffles are available in his Manhattan and Brooklyn stores as well as via his website.
Heidi and Arthur Chocolatiers in Valley Cottage, N.Y., also produce a line of truffles that includes Port Wine, Champagne, Frangelico Ganache, Amaretto Ganache, Kirsch Ganache and White Russian with vodka and Kahlua.
“Our Winter Cabernet Truffle with dark chocolate is very popular,” says Anette Madsen, co-owner with brother Brent of Anette’s Chocolates by Brent, a company that produces chocolates and maintains two retail shops. The owners make six different wine- or liqueur-infused chocolate truffles. Wine is a natural ingredient for their chocolates, as they are located in the heart of Napa Valley. “My brother and I grew up here, surrounded by wine and great cuisine, and we wanted to combine the two,” relates Madsen. They began with wine-infused truffles 19 years ago, and have been experimenting ever since with new combinations of chocolate with wine, liqueur and beer—and, most recently, bourbon. Besides the truffles, Anette’s crafts Merlot Fudge and Brandy Caramel, as well as a line of spiked dessert sauces. Merlot Fudge and Brandy Caramel contain 5 percent alcohol, estimates Madsen, and the truffles contain less than half a percent. “But in some states that’s still considered alcoholic,” she points out.
A bit more unusual are the Sake Truffles produced by Cacao Cuvee in Rockford, Ill. The Japanese fermented beverage is combined with semi-sweet dark chocolate ganache for flavor, and the truffle is topped with a sprinkle of Matcha, the delicate Japanese green tea. “I developed it five years ago for an account with a fragrance line called Sake, and they found they were selling a lot of the product because of my sake chocolates,” recalls Owner Susan Pitkin. The confection has proved so popular that she’s kept it on her main menu ever since. Pitkin also makes a Chambord Truffle, with the French black raspberry liqueur in a white chocolate ganache enrobed in dark chocolate, for her Cacao Cuvee line.
A different take on the filled-chocolates category comes from Sweets Candy Company in Salt Lake City, Utah, which offers a line of sticks in which a Port, Champagne or Cabernet pectin center is drenched in dark chocolate. The flavors are available in 3.5-ounce individual boxes or in a triple pack with all flavors.
Bissinger’s Handcrafted Chocolatier company in St. Louis also has a twist on the classic chocolate-alcohol combo: grapes soaked in Shiraz red wine are enrobed in dark chocolate. One of the chocolatier’s fruit suppliers sent samples of the grapes for experimental purposes, and the wine-chocolate concept was developed for the opening of the company’s new chocolate lounge in Maryland Plaza. The product has been selling well, says Jeannine Manning, director of marketing. Bissinger’s now produces more than 2,000 pounds a month of the product, and the company is currently working to develop more wine-chocolate combinations.
Boston’s Gourmet Boutique sells Bissinger’s infused and chocolate-enrobed grapes, “a luxury impulse item because they are small, and in an eat-it-yourself pack,” notes Zelford.
NON-CHOCOLATE BUZZED CANDIES
The candy-liquor combination doesn’t stop with chocolate. Nut brittles are also a vehicle for alcohol flavorings. Anette’s offers five brittles, most made with locally produced ale and Spanish peanuts, but substitutes with other nuts such as almonds and pistachios and even pumpkin seeds. Triple Nut Bourbon Brittle is a big seller, says Madsen. The nut brittles are cooked at such high temperatures that the alcohol is all evaporated. The company’s latest innovation is a twist on the brittle line that captures a big trend in smoked meat: Bacon-Beer Brittle.
Banned in the U.S. for more than a century, the infamous spirit absinthe is once again legal in this country. Jason Lewis, owner of San Francisco-based Lollyphile, developed an Absinthe Lollipop with the anise-flavored liquor. He has also developed other alcohol-based lollipops, including Bourbon, Irish Cream, White Russian and Amaretto varieties, all handmade in small batches. The original Absinthe remains the most popular flavor, says Lewis.
Lollyphile’s Absinthe Lollipops are big sellers in the gift shop at La Maison de Absinthe Museum in New Orleans’ French Quarter. The candy proved so popular, says co-owner Stacy Bonnecaze, that she sourced a number of other absinthe-flavored candies, including mints, gumballs and Pastiglie Leone absinthe pastilles from Italy. “We fly through every single one of these items,” she says. “They are an impulse item and make great souvenirs for the museum.”
MERCHANDIZING THE CANDIES
Because of the alcohol content, many retailers treat these candies differently. “I keep them in a separate section in the store and don’t promote them,” reveals Cottrell at Bavaria Sausage Kitchen. “Customers who want the liquor fills will find them,” she says, philosophically. Wisconsin requires customers be 21 or older to purchase the items.
Other retailers opt to cross-promote the candies with other treats or with alcohol sets. At Mint, for example, Jarane strategically locates the Borrachitos next to his craft beer selection. But, he adds, “I keep them on a little higher shelf,” out of reach of children.
As for the next big thing in alcohol confections? It remains to be seen. “There are more of these kinds of candies coming onto the market,” says Gourmet Boutique’s Zelford, who reports a typical flood of debuts during the holiday season.
Palates are more sophisticated these days, adds Madsen, who cites the growing consumer interest in fine wines, craft beers and classic cocktails as a parallel. It’s a quest for new flavors not a taste for alcohol driving interest in the alcohol-component products, she insists. “Our customer base is open to trying all kinds of things.” |SFM|
State Regulation Challenges
Some buyers need to navigate tricky selling rules around alcohol-filled or -infused candies that vary by state.“In Pennsylvania, we aren’t allowed to carry any of that stuff,” notes Doug Alprin, owner of Village Candy in Pittsburgh. “Around the holidays, I wanted to order those little chocolate bottles with liqueur in them, but the state liquor control board said no.”
Regulations on many of these confections are a patchwork that vary from state to state, with 16 states outlawing candies with alcohol completely. “My candy is contraband here in Atlanta,” quips David Betts, business development manager at importer Crown Candies. The Mexican caramels contain 2.6 percent alcohol.
Alcohol content in these candies runs the gamut, from nil to significant. Many states dictate a maximum allowed alcohol content of 4-5 percent and the majority of these products fall under that limit. Other states have restrictions on age, banning sales to customers under 21 years old. “It’s not a product people are going to get drunk on—a gateway drug,” contends Betts. “We’re not selling alcohol; it’s a candy with a unique flavor.”
The residual alcohol is important to the taste of the final product, argues Anette Madsen at Anette’s Chocolates by Brent. “You want to keep some of the alcohol so the flavors balance out in the end, and to give the impression that the product has real wine or real liqueur in it. We like that balance.”
Thomas Henry Strenk is a Brooklyn-based writer who specializes in all things drinkable, and is a contributor to Restaurant Business Magazine, Cheers Magazine, Beverage Dynamics and Wine Enthusiast.
Products that contain real licorice are usually labeled as such, and list licorice extract or glycyrrhizic acid among the ingredients. Be advised that some products, such as black jelly beans or Good & Plenty, are mixtures of different candies that contain both anise oil and licorice extract.Is Good and Plenty licorice bad for you? ›
It's called glycyrrhizin and when consumed in large quantities, it can lead to abnormal heart rhythms, edema, high blood pressure, lethargy or congestive heart failure, the suit says. The compound also can cause potassium levels in the body to drop.Do good and plenty have real licorice in them? ›
GOOD & PLENTY sweets are made of narrow cylinders of sweet licorice coated in colorful pink and white candy shells. Are GOOD & PLENTY licorice candies made from real licorice? GOOD & PLENTY candy contains licorice extract, which is a natural flavor obtained from the root of the licorice plant.Why do I overeat candy? ›
Studies have shown that sweet or fatty foods can activate pathways in the brain associated with pleasure and reward, kicking off processes that can compete with or override signals that regulate normal hunger and satiety, sometimes causing people to overeat out of pleasure, not hunger.Does licorice root raise or lower blood pressure? ›
What Do We Know About Safety? Although licorice root is generally considered safe as a food ingredient, it can cause serious side effects, including increased blood pressure and decreased potassium levels, when consumed in large amounts or for long periods of time.What are the side effects of licorice flavonoids? ›
People who regularly take large amounts of licorice, more than 20 g/day, may raise blood levels of the hormone aldosterone, which can cause serious side effects, including headache, high blood pressure, and heart problems.What is the healthiest licorice to eat? ›
Red Licorice vs.
WINNER: Red licorice. Many people assume that black licorice root can alleviate health issues. This hasn't been proven, but eating large quantities of black licorice may be dangerous to people 40 and older because a compound in it has been linked to heart problems, according to the FDA.
"The dried extract that we add to black Twizzlers contains a small amount of glycyrrhizin that is far below the maximum amount the FDA permits in soft candy like licorice," Beckman said.What medications should not be taken with licorice? ›
Liquorice extract has mineralocorticoid-like effects and can cause hypokalaemia, hypertension, cardiac arrhythmia and myopathy. Patients taking fludrocortisone or medicines which can deplete potassium should avoid eating liquorice or taking supplements containing liquorice extract.Does licorice cause constipation or diarrhea? ›
Its also popularly used as a natural laxative, so it can help with constipation, and as an aid for digestive problems. According to the medical journal, Nutrition and Cancer, substances in licorice may even protect against carcinogen-induced DNA.
Although licorice candy is a relatively low-sugar treat (compared to most other types of candy), it provides little to no health benefits. Licorice candy derives its distinct flavor from the licorice root, which can have beneficial effects when consumed in its natural form.What licorice is real licorice? ›
The flavor of what's known today as "black licorice" traditionally comes from the licorice plant, Glycyrrhiza glabra. The roots of the licorice plant are very sweet and sometimes are even sold by themselves as a treat at old-style confectionaries.What is sugar face? ›
Nigma Talib, a naturopath who works with celebrities, has popularized the term “Sugar Face” to describe the effects that excess sugar has on the skin. Supposedly, she can look at someone's face and determine if they have a sweet tooth by the appearance and the location of their blemishes and wrinkles.How can I flush my sugar immediately? ›
The easiest way to bring your blood sugar level back to normal is by drinking a lot of water. If your daily water intake level is normal, then your blood sugar remains in control. Water helps kidneys to flush out toxins and insulin from the body.What should I eat if I crave sweets at night? ›
- Fruit. When most people feel sugar cravings, they reach for high-fat, high-sugar foods like chocolate ( 1 ). ...
- Berries. Berries are an excellent, nutritious choice for stopping sugar cravings. ...
- Dark Chocolate. ...
- Snack Bars. ...
- Chia Seeds. ...
- Sugar-Free Chewing Gum or Mints. ...
- Legumes. ...
Yes, particularly if you're over 40 and have a history of heart disease or high blood pressure, or both. Eating more than 57g (2 ounces) of black liquorice a day for at least 2 weeks could lead to potentially serious health problems, such as an increase in blood pressure and an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia).Does Red Twizzlers raise blood pressure? ›
Effect on Health
When consumed in large amounts, glycyrrhizin can cause muscle pain, numbness in your limbs, high blood pressure, swelling, headache or fatigue. People with heart, kidney or liver disease, diabetes or high blood pressure should not consume licorice that contains glycyrrhizin.
Chronic use and large doses of licorice root can cause severe fluid and electrolyte imbalances. Children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and those with kidney disease, heart disease, or high blood pressure should avoid licorice products.How much licorice is safe per day? ›
According to the WHO, up to 100 mg per day of glycyrrhizic acid, equal to about 2–2.5 ounces (60–70 grams) of licorice, is safe for the majority of adults.How does licorice affect your bowels? ›
Licorice can affect your body in a number of ways. It both inhibits coughing and helps you get rid of phlegm in your lungs. It soothes inflamed tissues, relaxes muscles and exerts a mild laxative effect on your bowels.
Therefore, licorice is a promising candidate to prevent the progression of alcoholic liver injury, which probably acts by enhancing anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory capacity.What country makes the best licorice candy? ›
Nowhere in the world is licorice as popular as in the Netherlands. There are other places where they like licorice: in Scandinavia, they like to eat it; in England, they like Liquorice Allsorts; and the Italians enjoy pure licorice root extract. But, it's the Netherlands that is the champion.Is black licorice the only real licorice? ›
In a word, no. The treat referred to as red licorice in the United States is a chewy candy made with a similar process as traditional licorice but without any licorice root or anise flavorings. Red licorice comes in most of the same shapes as black licorice.Does black licorice candy have any health benefits? ›
Study authors state that licorice also appears to have antidepressant actions and can be helpful for pain management. Black licorice has also been shown to help with the symptoms that accompany metabolic syndrome, according to the authors of a 2021 review published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology.Is there pig fat in Twizzlers? ›
Do twizzlers contain pork? Hello! This product does not contain pork.Are Twizzlers healthier than red vines? ›
Twizzlers have nearly double the ingredients as Red Vines, and they contain a higher amount of sugar per serving. Because of this, many Red Vine fans say that their favorite of the two rope candies is healthier. However, if you look at the labels, Twizzlers only has five more calories than Red Vines.How many Twizzlers can you eat in a day? ›
Twizzlers Strawberry Twists
But at 120 calories and 16 grams of sugar for three pieces, Twizzlers aren't a terrible choice if you eat less than the serving size. Cassetty suggests limiting yourself to one Twizzler (so that you stay at about five grams of sugar) and taking your time eating it.
There is not a specific “safe” amount, but people with high blood pressure or heart or kidney disease should avoid black licorice, which could worsen these conditions.Is licorice good for anti-inflammatory? ›
Conclusion: Licorice and its natural compounds have demonstrated anti-inflammatory activities. More pharmacokinetic studies using different models with different dosages should be carried out, and the maximum tolerated dose is also critical for clinical use of licorice extract and purified compounds.Is high blood pressure a side effect of licorice? ›
Too much glycyrrhizin can therefore lead to problems such as raised blood pressure, fluid retention, muscle weakness and heart rhythm abnormalities (arrhythmia). The good news is that if liquorice has this effect on you, the changes are not normally permanent.
Licorice root has an anti-inflammatory effect, and it may aid digestion. After a meal has settled, drinking a cup of licorice root tea may soothe the digestive system and encourage a bowel movement.
Whole licorice can cause adverse effects including high blood pressure, low potassium levels, fatigue, headaches, water retention, numbness in the arms and legs and muscle pain, especially if taken in amounts in excess of 0.2 milligrams of glycyrrhizin per kilogram per day.
Licorice root is said to have anti-inflammatory properties that could shorten the life of an upset stomach, according to Bon Appétit. If you're feeling blah, drink some licorice root tea to help calm your troubled tummy.Why do I crave liquorice? ›
When women crave liquorice every now and then, it may well be to ease premenstrual syndrome, as liquorice is a wonderfully natural way to manage fluctuating estrogen levels that can rise during a cycle causing the associated symptoms of PMS, including cramps and irritability.Can diabetics eat licorice candy? ›
Diabetes management: Licorice or mulethi is packed with anti-diabetic properties that could help keep your blood sugar levels stable.Is Red Vines black licorice real licorice? ›
Do Red Vines® Original Red® Twists contain real licorice root or extract? Only Red Vines® Black Licorice Twists contain licorice extract.What is Twizzlers licorice made of? ›
The licorice company was founded in 1845, making it one of the oldest confectionery firms in the United States. Twizzlers ingredients consist of corn syrup, wheat flour, sugar, cornstarch, and smaller amounts of palm oil, salt, artificial flavor, glycerin, citric acid, potassium sorbate, Red 40, and soy lecithin.What is the strongest licorice? ›
Swedish salty licorice is usually considered the strongest, as it contains, on average, around 7%.What foods contain glycyrrhizic acid? ›
Licorice. Licorice contains glycyrrhizin as a major ingredient. It has been used as a Chinese medication and as a sweetener in other medications, candies, foods, and drinks in the United States and Europe.What candy has glycyrrhizin? ›
Traditional black licorice flavor comes from a chemical called glycyrrhizin, which is 50 times sweeter than cane sugar.
Ingredients: Sugar, corn syrup, enriched wheat flour (flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamin, mononitrate, riboflavin, and folic acid), molasses, contains 2% or less of: artificial color (k-carmine, red 40 lake), gum acacia, licorice extract: modified cornstarch, salt, caramel color, resinous glaze, carnauba wax, ...Which licorice contain glycyrrhizin? ›
Glycyrrhizin is found in licorice root of a small leguminous shrub, Glycyrrhiza glabra L. from Europe and Central Asia.What are the dangers of glycyrrhizic acid? ›
It contains glycyrrhizic acid, which can cause swelling and high blood pressure and deplete potassium and other electrolytes that may cause a cardiac arrhythmia or arrest. Glycyrrhizic acid can be found in other foods, such as jelly beans and beverages for flavor. What is a safe amount to consume?Does Twizzlers black licorice contain glycyrrhizin? ›
"The dried extract that we add to black Twizzlers contains a small amount of glycyrrhizin that is far below the maximum amount the FDA permits in soft candy like licorice," Beckman said.Is glycyrrhizic acid safe? ›
Licorice that contains glycyrrhizin is possibly unsafe when consumed in large amounts or for a long time. Eating licorice 5 grams or more daily for several weeks can cause severe side effects including heart attack. People who have heart disease, kidney disease, or high blood pressure are more sensitive to it.What is the most unhealthy candy in the world? ›
Not only do Twix bars have the most calories, but they also have the highest amount of fat, making them the least healthy candy for your child to eat. Just one Fun Size Twix contains 250 calories, 17 grams of sugar and 14 grams of total fat. That's a lot for such a small piece of candy!Are Twizzlers real licorice? ›
Yes, the original TWIZZLERS Twists are licorice because they include licorice extract. However, the most popular flavors like strawberry or cherry do not include licorice extract, so they are often referred to as licorice type candy.What happened to Good and Plenty candy? ›
Warner-Lambert purchased Quaker City in 1973 and sold it to Leaf Candy Company (owned by Beatrice Foods) in 1982. It is now produced by Hershey Foods, which purchased Leaf North America in 1996.What is the fruit version of good and plenty? ›
Good & Fruity is a multicolored, multi-flavor candy with a similar shape to Good & Plenty. Unlike Good & Plenty, Good & Fruity contains red licorice. The candy was produced by The Hershey Company. U.S.Why are they called good and plenty? ›
There was much controversy over the naming of this candy, but eventually the Quaker City Confectionary Company settled with Good & Plenty as the name instead of the less catchy Bad & Scarce.
Eating more than 57g (2 ounces) of black liquorice a day for at least 2 weeks could lead to potentially serious health problems, such as an increase in blood pressure and an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia).