Photos by Claire Lower
As we approach Halloween, there will be much talk of making your own Snickers or DIY-ing candy corn. I usually leave that stuff alone, as the Snickers bar has already been perfected. If I'm going to make my own candy, I want it to be unique, special, and — why not? — boozy.
Make no mistake, this isn't fodder for the trick-or-treat bowl. This is a fancy lolly made with three of my best friends: gin, vermouth, and Campari. You heard me: we're talking about a Negroni lollipop. Though I have a ton of experience in the Negroni department, I'm not as well versed in hard candy making, so I reached out to candy queen — and book author — Jami Curl, owner of Portland's own QUIN Candy.
A pile of awesome.
Jami was nice enough to invite me to her small-batch factory, and walk me through the process of making my favourite cocktail into a beautiful piece of candy. She even let me fill a few molds, which was very brave on her part (this is what we, in the biz, call "foreshadowing").
Lollipops — boozy or otherwise — are startlingly easy to make, but Curl has a few for ensuring they come out perfectly every time:
- Measure everything by mass, not volume: As we've discussed here before, this is the surest way to make sure you get delicious, consistent results every time.
- Get a thermometer: Though the ol' glass of water trick will work with softer candies, precise temperature control is needed when it comes to lollipops. (And honestly, no kitchen should be without an instant read thermometer, whether you make candy or not.)
- Get some molds: Yes, you can make a lollipop by pouring the hot candy over a stick on a nonstick mat, but molds will always produce a perfectly round lollipop without fail. Get some sticks too.
Once you've gathered your scale, thermometer, molds, and sticks, you are ready to start crafting your candy. To make a Negroni sucker, you will first have to make a Negroni syrup. To make that sweet cocktail elixir, you will need:
- 1 750-milliliter bottle of gin
- 1 750-milliliter bottle of Campari
- 1 1-litre bottle of sweet vermouth.
Pour all three bottles in a big pot and reduce by exactly half. This is your Negroni syrup. To transform it into lollipops, you will need:
- 267 grams glucose (You can buy this online, but you can also use corn syrup with similar results.)
- 400 grams granulated sugar
- 110 grams Negroni syrup
- 2 grams tangerine flavoring (get something made for high-heat applications, like this.)
Weigh the glucose, sugar, and Negroni syrup into a heavy-bottomed pot and set the pot over medium-high heat. Bring the lollipop syrup to a boil. Once boiling, swirl the pot often to make sure the sugar is cooking evenly. At first the syrup will bubble fast and light. Then it starts to slow down and the bubbles get a bit slower and thicker. This means the syrup is nearly ready.
Test the syrup for temperature and as soon as it reaches 315℉ degrees remove it from the heat. Stir in the flavoring. Whisk the contents of the pot together very well until the candy no longer looks foamy and any active bubbling has stopped. Using great care, pour the syrup into the candy funnel or spouted cup and funnel or pour the candy into the mould. Err on the side of too little syrup into each cavity rather than too much. You can always add more syrup, but you cannot take it away. Work quickly though, because once the candy cools and solidifies, you won't be able to heat it back up to a pourable consistency again.
This cannot be undone. (This was me. I did this.)
Let the pops sit until they're completely hard and cool, about half an hour to an hour, depending on the temperature and humidity in your kitchen. Pop 'em out of the molds, wrap them if you like, and enjoy your decidedly adult sweet treat.
If Negroni pops aren't your thing, you should look inward and examine why you're wrong, but you can use this recipe as a template to build your own cocktail inspired lollipops. You do, however, need to keep a couple of things in mind. For one, the cocktail syrup should be made from liquor and liqueurs, as adding juice or other liquids will throw off the consistency of the syrup. Also, think of flavourings (like our tangerine above) as the garnish. Just as a Negroni would be unfinished without that squeeze of zest at the end, so will your lollipop without that extra bit of fruity flavoring. Also, if wine is more your bag, be sure to check out Jami's book, Candy Is Magic, which is chock-full of amazing candy creations including pinot noir lollipops. Above all, don't take it all too seriously. Play around, have fun, and eat your mistakes.