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The history of Dutch liquorice

Dutch liquorice (also known as drop) is a typical treat from the Netherlands, and one that’s inextricably linked to Dutch culture. Which is probably why it’s also one of the best-selling products at online Dutch supermarket, Holland at Home! But where did this delicious Dutch sweet that’s a firm favourite with Dutch emigrants and foreign expats alike, actually originate? Find out in our brief history of Dutch drop below!

Dutch liquorice

The origins of Dutch liquorice

Liquorice is made from juice extracted from the root of the Glycyrrhiza Glabra – a plant that belongs to the Fabaceae family. Liquorice root extract has been prized for centuries, especially as a treatment for coughs and stomach ulcers, and was enjoyed by famous kings and emperors, including the Egyptian pharaoh, Tutankhamen, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Napoleon. Yet it wasn’t until 1731, when Italian, Giorgio Amarelli, discovered a way to make sweets from liquorice root extract, that the liquorice we know and love today was finally born. Whilst this first liquorice was predominantly sold as a medicine for infections, colds and stomach ulcers, it rapidly became a sought-after confectionary item too.

The popularity of Dutch drop

Although liquorice was originally an Italian invention, it’s now particularly popular in the Netherlands. In fact Holland is now the largest manufacturer of liquorice in the European Union, and according to statistics, some 80% of Dutch people consume it, 14% of which on a regular basis. Outside of the Netherlands, liquorice is less in demand, although it is well liked in Scandinavian countries and northern Germany.

The most famous Dutch liquorice brands include Klene, Venco and Katja, who typically divide their liquorice into sweet and salty, as well as hard and soft varieties. Some of the best loved Dutch liquorice sweets are muntdrop, katjesdrop, honingdrop, salmiakdrop and laurierdrop. There are also a number of authentic Dutch liquorice sweets that have been specially formulated to soothe sore throats, such as “Pottertjes” and “Wiebertjes”. In addition to pure liquorice, Dutch consumers can also choose from a delicious selection of liquorice combinations, of which Mentos, Tikkels and Griotten are arguably the most favoured. And nowadays, many types of traditional Dutch liquorice are available in sugar free versions too – great news for liquorice lovers who are watching their weight!

Dutch liquorice facts

  • The Dutch enjoy approximately 32 million kilos of Dutch liquorice per year, which equates to around 2 kilos per person. Dutch consumers aged between 16 and 50 years eat the most liquorice, whilst women consume more than men.
  • The glycyrrhizin found in liquorice root is largely responsible for that distinctive liquorice flavour and is about 50 times sweeter than granulated sugar.
  • Charlie Chaplin famously ate his shoelaces in the film, ‘The Gold Rush’ – fortunately, these were in fact liquorice laces, and thus didn’t result in a stomach upset!

Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then why not visit our sister blog, Heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants abroad?

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