Liquorice is experiencing a rebirth. No longer just for children, today’s liquorice is aimed at adults - foodies looking for a new flavour.
On a blustery winter Sunday in Copenhagen, participants are crammed in a warehouse restaurant to learn about the latest culinary possibilities for liquorice. The organizers of this annual liquorice festival are convinced that everyone can learn to love the stuff and their belief is strengthened by a boom in sales. Many of the people here are repeat visitors, back for more samples and inspiration.
As they tour the food stations, they learn about its unending versatility, how to make liquorice at home, how to marinate prime beef in a gray powder to give it a modern flavour, how to mix new cocktails using a sticky black syrup. Available to buy in the small sales area are liquorice truffles, pastries, sweets, tea. Big blocks of raw liquorice and the fibrous twig-like root are on display. The message organizers hope their guests take home, is that you can eat liquorice any time of day, from breakfast to an after-dinner dessert.
High end liquorice began to appear on the culinary scene around seven or eight years ago when several entrepreneurs started to ponder whether there was a market for a gourmet version of the sweet, something completely different from what you could get in the shops at the time. The key was quality ingredients and a lot of research and experimentation.
Today, gourmet liquorice comes in countless forms –organic liquorice, Easter eggs, marzipan, tea, syrup and powder. They come in endless combinations - with mint, chili, or coffee, from chocolate covered liquorice to liquorice covered almonds.
No longer found in the supermarket sweet aisle, jars of high-end liquorice brands are sold in premium shops and concept stores in the Nordic countries, the UK and the US.
Suddenly, everyone wants to be in on it. Michelin-starred chefs are using it as an ingredient not just in desserts, but also in savoury dishes. Liquorice-flavoured ice cream has proved to be a particular hit.
Ultimately the test will be whether there’s as big a market of liquorice obsessives outside Northern Europe and whether everyone really can learn to love the it.
Words by Christina Marker Photographs by Ditte Isager Styling by Christine Rudolph and Mikkel Karstad