Simple yet elegant, seductive while at the same time innocent, the lollipop is one of the true icons of the candy snacking world. It deserves the star treatment, which is exactly what San Francisco-born, Austin-raised candy company Lollyphile delivers.
Lollipops have come a long way since sweet-cravers in the Middle Ages dipped sticks in boiled sugar to create the candy's ancient ancestors. Those early ugly lumps have evolved into sophisticated works of art, as pleasing to the palate as they are to the eye. The act of...
...yes, I know that one says "Breast Milk" on it. We'll be getting to that eventually. Bear with me.
Sucking on a lollipop can be more than simply snacking. A child with a lollipop is the picture of innocence, while an adult woman consuming the same candy is often presented as a source of titillation. Then of course there's guy:
Telly Savalas' Kojak made lollipops cool in the early 1970s. Now Lollyphile is taking up the reins, but with flavors like Absinthe, White Russian, Salty Dog and, yes — Breast Milk — these are no Tootsie Roll Pops.
Lollyphile is cool. Lollyphile is hip. Lollyphile's web page is filled with pictures of quirky, attractive people having fun and eating lollipops.
But what initially drew me to Lollyphile was a link sent to me from our own Tina Amini, regarding one specific flavor. Breast Milk lollipops debuted in the number two position on my "Things I Do Not Want In My Mouth" chart, displacing "Someone Else's Pus" but failing to steal the top spot from perennial favorite, "Hundreds of Live Spiders."
Of course, being a certified snackologist means doing things one might not be particularly proud of, so I went ahead and requested samples. The only remaining question was this: seeing as my wife is still with milk following the birth of our twins, would I compare and contrast?
The answer may surprise you, but only because I placed it at the end of this sentence in all caps NO.
Lollyphile sent me seven flavors to sample. Let's go through them one-by-one.
"Honey? What does Absinthe taste like?" "Sort of like black licorice." Mission accomplished.
The legendary anise-based green spirit was the basis for Lollyphile's initial foray into the realm of gourmet lollipops, and as far as I can tell the candy replicates the taste admirably. Imagine an incredibly strong black licorice flavor and you're right there with me. It's a powerful taste — I doubt I could make my way through an entire pop in one sitting.
A self-described expert in the combination of maple and bacon, I was really looking forward to getting my bearded lips around Lollyphile's Maple Bacon flavored lollipop. It's an interesting pop, filled with an odd sort of grit, which reveals itself as your saliva does its work on the confection.
As for the taste — well, they come pretty close. There's a fine line between the taste of bacon and the taste of instant chicken soup, and this pop is just over the fowl line.
The taste is all ginger, the afterburn all wasabi — exactly what I wanted out of Lollyphile's Ginger Wasabi flavor.
Ginger is one of the finest flavors on the planet, one that doesn't need any Japanese horseradish to make it sing. While the overall lack of wasabi taste might disappoint those craving the green stuff's signature nostril ravaging, a subtle burn on the back of my tongue is just fine with me.
I'm not sure if this is supposed to be Lollyphile's Pomegranate Tangerine flavor — it's simply labeled Pomegranate — but either way it really doesn't matter.
This lollipop is the epitome of generic red hard candy. There's a vague berry-ish flavor that I suppose could pass for pomegranate, but it never quite comes together. Definitely the most disappointing of the lot.
I had to look this one up. A Salty Dog is, apparently, a mixed drink consisting of vodka (or gin) and grapefruit juice, served in a salt-crusted glass (without salt it's a Greyhound).
Not surprisingly, given the pop's color, this one is another one of my favorites. The grapefruit flavor is mild but definitely present, and there's a saltiness that's so subtle I still wonder if I simply imagined it. Should I ever find myself in the position to order a mixed drink, I might give the real thing a try.
A mixture of coffee-liqueur and cream ingested primarily by shaggy-headed dudes in bathrobes, the White Russian is probably the easiest alcoholic beverage to replicate in candy form. Hell, it's almost liquid candy as it is.
The lollipop gets the flavor right, but without the alcohol kick or the hovering presence of Jeff Bridges, it's a bit boring. I guess that describes just about everything in existence, really.
I've spent the past two years avoiding the taste of breast milk. It's been all over our house, all over my kids, all over my wife; yet somehow, perhaps through dark sorcery, I've managed to avoid ingesting a single drop.
So I could not tell you if these Breast Milk lollipops — which are completely vegan and contain no actual breast milk — taste like the real thing. They do taste vaguely of milk, with a certain sweetness I've heard attributed to the human-produced product. If I were hard-pressed, I'd say it tastes a bit like rice pudding.
Feeling I wasn't up to the task, I turned to a pair of experts in the field.
Archer avoided, Seamus approved.
While I may not like all of their flavors, I do appreciate what Lollyphile is attempting to do in the name of furthering the stick-based candy business. It's a market brimming with untapped potential, waiting for plucky upstarts with tattoos and piercings to sneak in and steal the crown off the head of Big Candy, with its tendency to play things safe. If more candy companies follow Lollyphile's example, maybe the image of the lollipop will be a little less this...
... and a little more this:
Snacktaku is Kotaku's take on the wild and wonderful world of eating things, but not eating meals. Eating meals is for those with too much time on their hands. Past critiques can be found at the Snacktaku review archive.