It is December 13, 1920 and František Lhotský, a Czech businessman, just convinced the singer and actor Karel Hašler to give his surname to the empresario’s bonbons. Hašler was reluctant at first saying he didn’t want people to have him in their mouths constantly. In the end, he signed the contract and the name of the most famous Czech bonbons was born – Hašlerky.
In case you don’t know hašlerky – they are not only the most famous Czech bonbons but also easily recognizable by their taste and look.
They are small black bonbons with the taste of anise in white-blue paper with stripes. That’s how it’s been for almost 100 years. You see, the recipe hasn’t changed a bit but the form of the bonbons and the wrapping did. While a century ago the bonbons came piled up in a roll, now they are individually wrapped and in a bag.
History of Hašlerky
The recipe for Hašlerky actually comes from Germany where it was invented by a Hamburger pharmacist in 1877. A Vienese candymaker who took over the recipe called the bonbons Caruso after the Italian singer Enrico Caruso. After that the Czech businesman František Lhotský bought the recipe and at first called the bonbons after the Czech opera singer Emma Destinnová – Destinky. This name, however, didn’t have much success with the customers so Lhotský continued his search until finally settling on Hašlerky.
And why singers, you ask? As we mentioned, a pharmacist invented the recipe. Its objective was to cure soar throat which is especially important for singers. Lhotský did right by chosing the final name of Hašlerky. The new name resonated with the customers and the bonbons had a very good PR. There were coloring pictures for children in the magazines, witty advertisements sometimes containing clever rhimes and of course there were the famous Praga cars in form of the tube of hašlerky (the original form of packaging the bonbons). These cars often drove around elementary schools giving out bonbons to the children (imagine this today!)
Sadly, Karel Hašler died in a concentration camp in 1941 and after the WW II the communist state took over Lhotský’s factory. The production transfered to the Sfinx factory in Holešov. After the Velver Revolution the Swiss company Nestlé privatised the brand.
Recipe and production of Hašlerky
The exact recipe for Hašlerky is secret but we do know the general procedure and ingredients. The water, sugar and glucose sirup boil at 140°C. Then come the herbal extracts, especially anise, lemon balm and plantago. And we mustn’t forget the color, it’s provided by activated charcoal.
The factory in Holešov produces about 5,3 tons of hašlerky every day which is about 1,5 million bonbons in a shift! In 2019, 1056 tons of hašlerky were sold in Czech Republic and Slovakia.
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