You can count on grannies for a number of things. Showing you how to do the mashed potato dance, for one. Or keeping Glade Plug-In Air Fresheners in business. Or using “dilly-dally,” “horse-feathers” and “nincompoop” in a single sentence.
Another thing you can count on is a granny’s candy stash.
Usually, these candies are kept in an intricately etched crystal dish with a lid, artfully centred on a coffee table with a doily underneath. These dishes are so fancy, you’d think they held the remains of Tutankhamen, not peppermints. That’s just how grannies roll.
But how good is the actual candy?
I went in search of every granny candy I could get my sticky hands on. I ranked 20 (yes, 20!) candies based on taste, size and suckability. In other words, how long the candy lasted inside my mouth. Please note that I didn’t suck aggressively. It was a gentle, thoughtful suck as I went about my usual business, like dusting or doing decoupage.
If I missed any granny candies you think should be included, leave a comment. I will do my best to find it, suck it and rate it.
Okay, time to peel off those wrappers. Shit’s about to get real. Candies are ranked worst to best.
#20 Molasses Kisses
These were the worst candies a kid could get at Halloween. I mean, an apple landing in the bottom of your pillowcase wasn’t as depressing as a granny tossing you a handful of these. But are they really that bad? I had to mail-order these (it’s hard finding Halloween candy in August). The package boasted “With 10% molasses.” Like that was a selling point.
Tasting notes: My first thought was that it tasted like gingerbread dough. It had a deep, caramelized flavour that came from that 10% molasses, I’m assuming. But I couldn’t enjoy it. There were too many jaded Halloween memories associated with it. Even that orange-and-yellow wrapper was triggering. It also had an ingredient called “cotton stearine.” Trick or crap, folks. Trick or crap.
Suckability: 8 minutes, 35 seconds
Verdict: Still nope.
#19 Licorice Toffee
Some things should never go together. Socks and sandals. Trump and the White House. Prosciutto and melon. And toffee and licorice. I might be biased since I’m not a huge licorice fan to begin with, but I didn’t see any good coming from this unholy union. Was I right?
Tasting notes: Why? Why would you make a candy that tastes like this? It was awful. I just wanted to chew it and get it over with, but I managed to suck on until the miserable piece of crap disintegrated in my mouth. The fact that it was shit brown didn’t help.
Suckability: 6 minutes, 20 seconds (which was 6 minutes, 20 seconds too long)
Verdict: The antichrist of granny candies
#18 Spearmint Leaves
I can’t say I’m a fan of these, but I’ve seen them in a fair number of candy dishes over the years. And I thought it was only fair to include them for the spearmint leaves fans out there. All four of you. Anyway, I tried to keep an open mind. So was I ready for this jelly?
Tasting notes: Things definitely start off right, thanks to the sugar crust. And the spearmint flavour came through right away. But once the sugar was gone, things started to get a little slippery. It felt like I had a slug in my mouth. And yes, I’ve had a slug in my mouth before. Still, at the end of it all, my breath was likely in better shape than had I been sucking a fuzzy peach.
Suckability: 7 minutes, 23 seconds
Verdict: I’m ready to “leave” this one in the candy dish. (Sorry.)
#17 Chicken Bones
A colleague sent me a bag to include in my taste test. “These are my least favourite granny candies,” she wrote. Not exactly a selling point. Invented in New Brunswick in 1885, chicken bones are a combo of chocolate and cinnamon. They seem to draw strong opinions on either side. Which way would the bone sway me?
Tasting notes: I sampled these with two friends (yes, I have two). Things started out pleasant enough with a sharp cinnamon-y taste. And we were all satisfied by the size of the bone. But when the chocolate kicked in, lines were drawn. One found it pleasing. The other spit it out, saying the chocolate was “chalky.” Personally, I was just grateful for any kind of bone. And two friends.
Suckability: 6 minutes, 51 seconds
Verdict: You’re either a boner or you’re not a boner. There’s no in-between.
#16 Strawberry Candies
If I was judging candies based on packaging alone, these would be the hands-down winner. I mean, they look like actual strawberries. Almost as real as those strawberry marshmallows. But what’s under the wrapper counts the most.
Tasting notes: These tasted like lip gloss. And yes, as a young gay boy growing up with two older sisters, I have tasted lip gloss. Also, these candies were large and took up a lot of space in my mouth, which made hymn singing a bit challenging. In the end, I didn’t get a distinct strawberry flavour. Just sweet.
Suckability: 10 minutes, 1 second
Verdict: You can purdy it up, but it don’t mean it’s gonna taste good.
#15 Peppermint Chews
Wintergreen. Spearmint. Scotch. If you needed more evidence that grannies love anything mint, I present my next piece of evidence: the peppermint chew. Granted, you may lose a few fillings gnawing on these, but at least your breath will smell like 100.
Tasting notes: I got a perfume-y taste as soon as the sucking began. Or was that bleach? Or was that old paper? Anyway, it was sweet, but it wasn’t good. I had to resist the urge to chew it up just to get it over and done with.
Suckability: 7 minutes, 56 seconds
Verdict: Sweet and bleachy: two words that should never appear side by side.
#14 Wintergreen Mints
The colour of Peptol Bismol, these hard, round candies are a staple in most granny candy dishes. I don’t know why something called “wintergreen” is pink, but there are so many things I don’t understand about granny candies to begin with.
Tasting notes: As soon as I popped this into my mouth, I tasted old. Like dusty curtains and yellowed bedsheets and blinds pulled down on a sunny day. They were powdery and dry. The hot pink colour didn’t help and the round disc shape wasn’t a good fit for my mouth either.
Suckability: 6 minutes, 7 seconds
Verdict: An okay candy, if you like the taste of mint-flavoured chalk.
#13 Tavener’s Fruit Drops
If your granny greeted you with “Cheerio, guv’nor!” and served you bangers for breakfast, chances are, you’re British. Which means you’re likely familiar with these cocaine-dusted candies. Which means you’re probably an addict by this stage in your life.
Tasting notes: There are different flavours in the tin, but because everything is covered in cocaine, I couldn’t tell which was which, so I just grabbed one. Turns out it was lemon. It tasted like Pine Sol. And yes, I know what Pine Sol tastes like. Having said that, there were small indentations in both sides of the candy, a sign of good engineering as it fit my mouth perfectly. The cocaine coating was a nice touch, but there’s not enough coke in the world to make me a lemon fan.
Suckability: 6 minutes, 11 seconds
Verdict: Cocaine is a helluva drug, but lemon is still lemon.
#12 Glitter Mints
It’s a well-known fact these mints are always on Mariah Carey’s rider. She even made a movie about them. And who can blame her? Glitter mints are some serious glam candies. I didn’t know if I wanted to suck one or take it dancing at Studio 54. But did Mariah’s faves get me feeling emotions?
Tasting notes: Sorry, but like most pop stars, this candy was all photoshop with very little substance. The candy had a nice shape for my mouth and a nice texture (not unlike sucking polished glass), but the mint flavour was weak. Plus, as it got smaller, the polished glass felt more like shards. Ouch.
Suckability: 9 minutes, 49 seconds
Verdict: While it scored high for suckability, All I Want for Christmas Is…a different mint.
#11 Sour Lemon Drops
Grannies like anything that make your mouth pucker because then you’re easier to kiss. That’s my theory anyway. I’m not a big fan of lemon flavoured anything but I had to include these. This journalistic work can take me to some dark corners. So did these Sour Lemon Drops change my mind?
Tasting notes: These tasted like Pledge. And yes, I know what Pledge tastes like. I have to say, this little fucker packed a helluva sour punch. My mouth got all phlegmy and my scalp started to sweat. It was like a hit of adrenaline. The next thing I knew, I had on a windbreaker pantsuit and was doing laps at the mall.
Suckability: 10 minutes, 13 seconds
Verdict: If you like the taste of furniture polish, you’re in luck.
#10 But’r Mints
These cream-coloured candies promise the best of both worlds: mint (to freshen your breath after that French Onion chip dip) and butter (because butter). But’r I had to wonder: how would these chewy candies hold up against some hard competition?
Tasting notes: The texture was a bit like Silly Putty and the candy kept sticking to the back of my teeth. But it was fun to mould it into different shapes with my tongue. In terms of flavour, it had a creamy, gentle mint taste, but I just couldn’t deal with the back-of-teeth stickiness. As it neared the end, I looked like a squirrel as I tried to nibble the little bits off.
Suckability: 5 minutes, 59 seconds
Verdict: A sticky mess not worth the stares from bystanders.
These are right up there in the granny candy hall of fame. I used to think they were called June Bugs, which makes sense, given their resemblance. I mean, what’s a humbug? (Don’t get started on the Scrooge thing, please.)
Tasting notes: Buttery and honey-ish with a hint of mint, these candies were subtle, but sweet. They had a nice shape which fit my mouth perfectly. Having said that, they were a little lacklustre, considering their notoriety. The colour was nice, though, if you like that amber jewellery they sell on The Shopping Channel.
Suckability: 7 minutes, 37 seconds
Verdict: A good mint, but a little underwhelming.
#8 Starlight Candies
I don’t want to offend anyone, but if your granny served these, she needed to get out of the house more. You can’t get any more boring than these swirly yawns, IMHO. Even if the red and green options mean you have a corner on the Christmas market. But was I being too judgemental?
Tasting notes: I found the thick round disc awkward in my mouth. But it had a strong mint flavour that rose up my nose (always a sign of a good mint). If it had been oval, it would’ve scored higher. Maybe this candy is strictly for people with big mouths. Or no tongues.
Verdict: A decent enough candy, but better off as a gingerbread house decoration.
Suckability: 8 minutes, 42 seconds
#7 Rum Flavoured Toffee
All elderly people love rum. And not just to drink. Consider senior favourites like rum-raisin ice cream, rum-and-butter Lifesavers or that classic morning treat, rum n’ Shreddies. These rum-flavoured toffee candies looked like a good time. But did they give me the buzz I was hoping for?
Tasting notes: These had a heavy, satisfying weight on my tongue. They were buttery, creamy and rummy. Sadly, I didn’t get a buzz. Although I did consider calling every guy who dumped me to tell them that I was doing taste tests on granny candies and who was sorry now? Maybe I did get a buzz.
Suckability: 6 minutes, 40 seconds
Verdict: While they didn’t disappoint, they also didn’t get the mutherfuckin party started either.
#6 Spearmint Peppermints
Like that annoyingly pretty second cousin who sucks up all the attention at a family reunion, the spearmint peppermint has been up the scotch peppermint’s ass since time immemorial. Yes, they’re flashier. But how do they really stack up against their Scottish kin?
Tasting notes: There was a sharp, spearmint flavour as soon as the sucking began. It definitely was more complex and sophisticated next to its (pale) scotch cousin. After a few minutes, the hard exterior dissolved into an oval sugar cube, giving my tongue a nice exfoliation. But the spearmint flavour quickly disappeared.
Suckability: 6 minutes, 27 seconds
Verdict: Definitely prettier but looks are only mint-deep.
#5 Butterscotch Candies
Before there were Werther’s, there were these butterscotch candies. Honestly, I don’t think you can get much more granny than butterscotch. And what little rays of sunshine these candies were! When I took them out of the bag, the clouds suddenly departed and birds started singing. But did they make my mouth shine?
Tasting notes: While it’s hard to compete with a Werther’s (which I don’t consider a granny candy don’t get me started), these candies held their own. There was a strong butterscotch flavour with a bit of a sharp undercurrent. And the flavour held on to the very end.
Suckability: 6 minutes, 52 seconds
Verdict: Not the world’s most exciting candy, but predictably dependable. Not unlike anything butterscotch.
#4 Anice Mints
If your granny greeted with you with “bunjourno!” and served S cookies, chances are, you’re Italian. Which means you’re likely familiar with these licorice-flavoured candies from your nonna’s candy dish. A note to mangiacakes: it’s pronounced “ah-nee-che,” not “ah-nice.” But you’ll probably pronounce it wrong anyway.
Tasting notes: Given my aversion to licorice, and the fact that these look like suppositories, they weren’t as bad as I expected. The licorice flavour was pretty subtle overall. They had a nice rectangular shape, as well, and nestled into the centre of my tongue perfectly.
Suckability: 8 minutes, 35 seconds
Verdict: A decent mint, even if licorice isn’t your thing.
#3 Scotch Peppermints
My mom always had these candies on hand. Resembling moth balls but tasting much better (I’m speaking from experience), scotch peppermints are the grand-daddy (or is that the grand-granny?) of hard candies. But do these classics deserve their status?
Tasting notes: I felt there was something sizeable in my mouth, so no complaints there. Throughout the sucking, the candy exuded a strong mint flavour. Within a few minutes, the hard, outer layer gave way to a coarse interior. In science, this is known as the mantle. Eventually this turned into a sticky, flavourless pebble not unlike a spare tooth rattling around inside my mouth.
Suckability: 7 minutes, 5 seconds
Verdict: While not the most exciting thing I’ve ever had on my tongue, the classic scotch peppermint can still blow the bagpipes.
#2 Kraft Caramels
If your granny had her candy dish filled with these, she was a high roller. To me, Kraft caramels are a sign of wealth, not unlike going trick-or-treating at someone’s house and they hand you a whole chocolate bar instead of one of those minis. Unfortunately, none of those people lived in my neighbourhood. I was lucky if I got a single roll of Rockets. Or a Molasses Kiss. (See above.)
Tasting notes: You don’t get a lot of flavour at first, but you need to warm these caramel cubes up a bit. Once you do, they release a deep caramel flavour, reminding me of caramel apples. (By the way, who really needs the apple?) The size was a little overwhelming and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t make some audible sounds as I sucked along. But, all in all, a satisfying treat to the very end.
Suckability: 8 minutes, 23 seconds
Verdict: A bonefide classic.
And coming in at first place . . .
#1 Chocolate Mints
Is there anything more sophisticated than the marriage of chocolate and mint? Consider After Eights. Or Junior Mints. Or Girl Guide cookies. I have to give these candies props for their shiny turquoise wrappers. I imagined Joan Collins serving these from her Waterford crystal dish to her grandchildren. “Never call me Grandma in public,” she’d say. “Always Queen Joan.”
Tasting notes: I like a candy that throws a few surprises. These start with mint, but then the chocolate centre starts seeping out and it’s hard not to get excited. I wanted to bite through to get to the chocolate, but I reminded myself I was a granny candy professional. There was protocol I had to follow. This was a winning candy in and out of the wrapper.
Suckability: 6 minutes, 29 seconds
Verdict: Sophisticated, complex and always unpredictable. Not unlike Queen Joan.
And there you have it! 20 granny candies ranked. My mouth is feels pretty raw right now and I have four cavities, but it was worth it. We all just want to leave our mark on the world, you know?
Why not make a candy tree with your granny candy? They’re a cinch and require no artistic ability. Alls you need is a Styrofoam ball, a wine or martini glass, bobby pins and candy.
Thread one end of the candy wrapper through the end of a bobby pin.
Stick the bobby pins in rows around the Styrofoam ball, working your way up to the top.
About two hours and a numb thumb later, you’ll have the sweetest tree ever!