Learning the essence of salty liquorice ie. salmiakki

Salty liquorice – salmiakki in Finnish - is a unique candy which is known only to approximately 1 % of the world’s population. It is an intriguing combination of sweet and salty taste.

Salty liquorice is one the most famous confictioneries in Finland and very well known also in other Nordic countries, Holland, Northern Germany and Greenland.

What is salmiakki?

In short salmiakki is liquorice that has been spiced up with ammonium chloride – this gives salmiakki it’s salty taste.

The history of liquorice goes all the way to ancient era. Egyptian hieroglyphs describe the usage of liquorice root in medical purposes. Liquorice as confectionary was introduced in England in the 18th century but unfortunately, it is not known when and where salty liquorice was invented.

We do know, however, that in Finland salmiakki has been used already 250 years ago. It was known as an ingredient in cough medicine recipes. It was also given to domestic animals to prevent animal plague.

Fazer is one of the most well known salmiakki producers in Finland

In the 19th century, salmiakki was sold in pharmacies: as powder, pastilles and in liquid format. Also in other northern countries salty liquorice has been used as a medicine for centuries. In certain cases salty liquorice is referred to as smelling salt – used to arouse consciousness. A Russian novelist Anton Tsehov mentions salty liquorice spirit being used in similar purpose.

The revolution of salmiakki

In Finland, the metamorphosis of salmiakki from medicine to confectionery began in the 1920s when The Central Finnish Cooperative Society (abbreviated as SOK) started manufacturing salty liquorice aside its liquorice products. In 1938, a Helsinkian confectioner Karl Fazer added salty liquorice to his manufacturing selection.

But it wasn’t until the 1950s when the Finns picked up salmiakki in volumes. As the industry grew, more companies entered the market and each of them introduced different varieties of salmiakki. Many of these are still in production.

The expansion of salmiakki into the drinks industry happened in the early 1990s when innovative bartenders started dissolving salty liquorice in different spirits. The idea of a salmiakki liquor is said to have been born on cruiser vessels that shuttle between Helsinki in Finland and Stockholm.

The first commercial product Koskenkorva Salmiakki entered the Finnish monopoly in the early 1990s. Soon after its release, the product was banned because it was selling too well. After two years, in 1995, the current recipe was developed. Since its launch, it has been one of the most sold liqueurs in the Finnish monopoly Alko.

Salty liquorice translated  

Finnish: salmiakki

Swedish: salt lakrits

Danish: salt lakrids

Icelandic: salt lakkris

Norwegian: salt lakris or salmiakk

Dutch: zoute drop

German: Salzlakritz

Estonian: salmiaak

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