Humbug (sweet)

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Mint humbugs

Humbugs are a traditional hard boiled sweet available in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. They are usually flavoured with peppermint[1] and striped in two different colours (often black and white). Humbugs are typically cylinders with rounded ends wrapped in a twist of cellophane,[citation needed] or pinched cylinders with a 90-degree turn between one end and the other (shaped like a pyramid with rounded edges) loose in a bag.[1] Records of humbugs exist from as early as the 1820s, and they are referred to in the 1863 book Sylvia's Lovers as being a food from the North.[2]

The name of the sweet is not related to the phrase "Bah, humbug" from Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol. That expression implies a general dissatisfaction with the Christmas season. However, offering humbugs around Christmas time is now seen by some as humorous or ironic, and was featured in an episode of Blackadder in this manner. While awaiting the appearance of a villain in the "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" episode of The Return of Sherlock Holmes series, Jeremy Brett as Holmes admonishes Edward Hardwicke's Dr. Watson for offering Colin Jeavons' Inspector Lestrade one of these sweets saying, "Watson, this is no time for humbugs!"


A mixture of sugar, glycerine, colour and flavouring is heated to 145 °C. This mixture is then poured out, and stretched and folded many times. The stripes originate from a smaller piece of coloured mixture which is folded in to the main mixture. The mixture is finally rolled into a long, thin cylinder and sliced into segments.[3]

Bulls eyes


A similar sweet is "bulls-eye" which has black and white stripes like a humbug, but is spherical like an aniseed ball. These are peppermint flavoured and are also known as bullets in the UK as they are similar in size to smoothbore musket balls.[citation needed]

Everton mints[edit]

Another popular mint in the UK is the Everton mint, which is also striped black and white with a toffee centre. The mints are distributed nationally under the Bassett's brand.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Davidson, Alan; Davidson, Jane; Saberi, Helen (2006). Jaine, Tom, ed. The Oxford companion to food. OUP Oxford. ISBN 0-19-280681-5. 
  2. ^ Ayto, John (1990). The Glutton's Glossary. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-02647-4. 
  3. ^ Alex Renton (10 September 2009). "Humbugs, mints, gums and our Top 20 sweets". The Times. Retrieved 25 January 2011. 
  4. ^