If you want to get technical, red licorice or any other flavor besides black is not really licorice because it has little connection to the actual flavor that comes from licorice root, which tastes more like anise. Black licorice has a small cult following because of its distinct flavor and is usually liked by those who like root beer and wintergreen flavors. Today, licorice is distinguished more by its texture rather than flavor.
Nevertheless, going past technical aspects, licorice is a nostalgic treat that whisks devotees away to old times. As a candy, it has been enjoyed since the 17th century in Europe and continues to be popular today as even a day is dedicated to it. Die-hard licorice fans know that April 12 is National Licorice Day.
How to Choose Good Licorice Brands
One way to know if you’re eating genuine old-fashioned licorice is that it is made with licorice root extract. If you’re looking for a healthier option, choose a brand with the fewest ingredients like Finland’s Panda brand. It usually contains molasses instead of corn syrup or sugar, but some of the flavored licorice may not contain licorice extract.
At the mention of licorice, one may automatically think of Red Vines, the traditional American candy that is so familiar to movie-goers. It has a chewy, firm, and rubbery texture. Next to the Red Vines is the Twizzler candies that have a plastic-y and waxy texture in the form of twists, nibs, and pull-n-peels. Both may be tasty, but if you’re looking for more variety, you may want to try a different brand that offers punchier flavors.
Kenny’s Licorice Twists offers many flavors including blue raspberry, chocolate, cinnamon, root beer, spearmint, watermelon, pina colada, grape, apple, orange, and the regular red and black flavors. These licorice twists are shiny and hollow with a texture that is firm and chewy. They can be found at Cost Plus World Market stores.
If you’re looking for something a little less artificial, Young & Smylie’s Licorice will not disappoint. It is made with real licorice root extract and gets gourmet status. Smooth, soft, and moist but still chewy, Young & Smylie Licorices come in three flavors including black, strawberry, and peach mango. They can be found at Target, Rite Aid, or Duane Reade.
Licorice connoisseurs will agree that Australia is one of the finest makers of genuine old-fashioned licorice candy. Two of their best brands include Darrell Lea and Kookaburra. Darrell Lea comes in black, green apple, strawberry, raspberry, mango, and even ginger. Smooth in texture and rich and fresh in flavor, they can be found at Trader Joe’s and Cost Plus World Market. Kookaburra twists come in black, green apple, mango, raspberry, and strawberry; they can be found in gourmet markets.
Licorice Tips and Warnings
If you forget to put a lid or seal on your licorice tub or package and the candy turns hard, you can nuke it in the microwave for five seconds to soften it up, but longer heating should be avoided because it can melt the licorice into gooey liquid form.
As food for thought, licorice root extract has medicinal properties and can be beneficial to sore throats and coughs, but too much can damage the liver. Thus, licorice candy with root extract should be eaten in moderation, as all other candies should be consumed in small amounts.
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