Dip Dabs, Sherbet fountains, Black Jacks, Fruit salads and refreshers are all retro childhood favourites that belong to Barratt Sweets who are celebrating their 170th Birthday this year. I was delighted to be asked to speak about the history of sweets at an event to celebrate this anniversary and even got the chance to make some Dolly Mixture.

To celebrate 170 years of satisfying the Great British sweet tooth, the Barratt range, held an evening where a few select press were invited to enjoy some cocktails and canapés, an interactive workshop creating Dolly Mixtures and then a talk from myself.

It is certain that this is a brand that carries a lot of nostalgia and fun. Indeed I can’t look at milkteeth without thinking about the time I stuck a pair of these sweets on the edge of my dad’s pint, I was around eight years old and for me it was the height of hilarity, but then that is part of the appeal of sweet: they are really sugar encapsulated memories.

I remember the 90’s slogan of ‘’find the fizz…find the fun’’, and it seems that lots of us adults are doing just that. Sales of retro sweets are on the up as us adults enjoy our old school classics such as  DipDab, Refreshers, Fruit Salad, Black Jack and Wham. Indeed the trend of adults treating themselves to child-like moments known as ‘kidulting’ is now a well-established trend and I can’t help wondering if the new sour dipdab with it’s apple flavoured lollipop and claims to turn your tongue green will be a hit in the office.  The great thing about sweets is that they can act almost like a time machine, in that the sight or taste of a beloved sweet from your childhood can transport you back to a time of endless adventures and happy summer days.

Barratt Sweets was founded in 1848 by George Osbourne Barratt and by 1884 the company had grown to become the largest producer of jam and confectionary in London and by 1906 it was the biggest confectionary producer in the world.  We had to wait a while for some of our beloved classics to arrive with fruit salads and black jacks becoming available in 1920 and the sherbet fountain first being sold in 1925. These early sweets involved the sherbet being contained in a paper wrapped cardboard tube with a liquorice straw  stuck in the top and then we had to wait until 1935 for refreshers and 1940 for the iconic Dipdab to make an appearance.  Though it must be said that nothing sums up the 1980’s quite like a wham bar. Indeed there was no better companion to your Sony Walkman and Denim jacket than a Wham bar, which managed to sell at the rate of 30 million bars during their peak.

I’m very glad to see the Barratt brand on our shelves and the brand celebrating 170 years of making sweet dreams. It’s nice to see that foam shrimps and bananas, refreshers and flumps mallow still have a place on our confectionary shelves as we have most certainly lost a lot of our retro classic sweets.

The event was held at the popular cookery school known as L’atelier des Chefs in London.  Beautiful canapés were accompanied by sweetshop inspired cocktails. I enjoyed a lovely mocktail that was inspired by the new sour apple flavoured Dip Dab. This  modern twist on a classic favourite worked fantastically well in the expertly mixed non-alcoholic cocktail I enjoyed. It was garnished with some slices of apple and an apple flavour lolly that turns your tongue green.  I noticed all sorts of cocktails being made themed around sherbet, Refreshers and even Wham bars. It was certainly a fun start to the evening.

After enjoying a few cocktails, it was time for the Dolly Mixture making workshop with Neil, a sweet making extraordinaire  and lead confectioner from Tangerine who own the Barratt Brand.

Neil started by showing us the range of naturally derived colours and flavouring available and then proceeding to roll out the ‘secret’ recipe fondant to make Dolly Mixture cubes and cylinders. It must be said that Neil made it look very easy, but in reality it is hard to get perfect shapes and sizes before the fondant starts to dry out and crack. I chose to make apple flavoured cylinders in a pale green and white and cubes made from pale blue and white tutti fruiti flavoured fondant, coupled with more of my apple green fondant.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but I must say that my end result didn’t look anywhere near as tempting as those made by Barratt’s .

After a twenty minute talk from myself on the history of sweets, the evening was over and as I headed back to my hotel I couldn’t help reflecting on some of the classic sweets of childhood such as liquorice cartwheels and candy mice.

So long live our old school classic sweets and the memories of childhood and endless summer days that accompany them!