Popular Czech sweet brand Hašlerky celebrates centenary

Photo: archive of Nestlé

One of the oldest and most popular Czech sweets, Hašlerky, are celebrating their 100th anniversary. The black-coloured hard candies with a distinct aniseed flavour, which are named after the famous singer and songwriter Karel Hašler, were first manufactured in Prague in December 1920.

Hašlerky, one of the most popular candies on the Czech market, owe their popularity to the famous Czech artist Karel Hašler. The singer, who had a hoarse voice, closed a deal with the producer of the supposedly medicinal candies, and he named them after him.

The production of the popular sweets, today owned by confectionary giant Nestle, started in 1920. However, their origin is much earlier, explains Štěpán Zendulka, brand manager of Nestlé:

“The story of Hašlerky dates back to 1877, when a pharmacist in Hamburg created a herbal cough mixture. In 1909, the famous Italian singer Enrico Caruso used that mixture to get back his voice before one of his concerts and then spread the word around.

“Subsequently, a candy maker, Erich Kirchstein from Vienna, acquired the recipe for the mixture and started to produce sweets, which he called Caruso Hustenbonbon after the great singer. These were the predecessors of today’s Hašlerky.”

Karel Hašler,  photo: Public Domain

In 1918 a Prague-based shop owner named František Lhotský bought the formula and started to produce the candies, but they didn’t sell too well.

That’s when he got the idea of naming them after the famous Czech singer and cabaret actor Karel Hašler. Mr Hašler allegedly hesitated at first, but then he gave his permission.

The first batch of Hašlerky were manufactured on December 13, 1920, and they soon gained huge popularity. In its heyday in the 1930s, the company employed more than a hundred people and Hašlerky were exported all over the world, including to India and Africa.

Although most people describe Hašlerky as a liquorice candy, they actually owe their distinct taste to aniseed. In 1927 the company trademarked Hašlerky and they have been produced in essentially the same way ever since.

“The production process has remained more or less the same. First, sugar, glucose syrup and water are boiled at a temperature of roughly 140 degrees Celsius.

Photo: Petr Kološ / Czech Radio

“Then aniseed and herb extract are added and also medicinal carbon, which gives the sweets their typical black colouring.

“Afterwards, the mixture is poured into moulds and pressed into hard candies, which are placed in the iconic blue and white wrappers.”

Today, Hašlerky are the second most popular hard candy on the market and many Czechs still swear by their healing powers when it comes to a sore throat or cough.

Over the years, the company has introduced several new flavours, including honey, lemon balm and mint. But to this day, the original Hašlerky remain their best-selling product.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the popular sweets, Nestlé has introduced a special tiny version of Hašlerky, packaged in a transparent plastic box, which can easily fit into one’s pocket.