Hard candies often conjure up images of the eldery reaching into their pockets and purses for a little treat. But for years, Jolly Ranchers have somehow managed to hoist the reputation of hard candy back into a place of honor by wrapping a rainbow of neon candies into tight bows and packaging them in cheerful bags geared towards the youths. The brand has ventured into lollipops, gummies, and other sugary snacks sure to stick to your teeth in recent years, but in the spirit of grandma's dedication to hard candies we stuck to the originals for this ranking. Not all of the hard candies are equally jolly, so we ranked them accordingly.
Let’s just get grape out of the way, shall we? Grape candy tastes like those days spent home with the flu, cautiously tipping purple cough medicine down your throat. Sure, it's one of the originals, but anything flu-adjacent is a no from me.
It could just be a me thing, but there’s something horrifying about the kind of people who actively choose to chew cinnamon gum or suck on cinnamon candies, who live for that self-inflicted, certainly angry, fiery burn of cinnamon alcohol. Plus, it strays away from the almost-too-sweet fruity flavors we seek out Jolly Ranchers for.
Mountain Berry feels like a slightly better version of Blue Raspberry -- one where in a world littered with processed blue raspberry flavors, this tastes closer to a respberry you'd find growing in the ground. Suck on it for long enough, though, and it manages to lose its flavor entirely.
Lemon is surprisingly palatable and delicate in flavor, as if someone daintily squeezed a drop of lemon juice on your tongue -- it stings for a moment, but then becomes sweet, making for a simple, pleasant, and not too overpowering candy.
When it comes to pineapple candies, they tend to be isolated, left all alone at the bottom of the bag. I’ll happily blame that on its off-putting white color and inability to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack. But once you’re forced to unwrap one (for lack of better flavors), you’ll find that it’s surprisingly decent -- reminiscent of a tiki drink minus the rum part.
This instantly recalls chipper memories of slurping juice boxes on the playground, your lips and teeth shiny and pink, and the flavor surprisingly manages to hold out until it’s small enough that your molars slowly pulverize what remains of the shard.
Orange is always an inherently lively flavor, no matter the form; it’s bright, pungent, fresh, and no one’s ever mad to have randomly pulled an orange Jolly Rancher from the rest of the bunch. The neon orange color doesn't exactly evoke a glass of fresh squeezed OJ on a sun-soaked morning -- and the flavor is more like if someone took that OJ and deviously snuck a few sugar packets into it. But it's pleasing nonetheless.
Green apple flavoring is strangely good. It simultaneously recalls the sour bite of a Granny Smith and something kind of odd and chemical that has nothing to do with apples. And yet, there's something undeniably addictive about it.
What is it about that fake watermelon flavor that systematically leaves me wanting more? The color? The residual taste? The desire for a hunk of the actual pink, juicy fruit dripping down my chin and onto my clothes? Probably the latter, seeing as watermelon candy simply does not provide me with anything remotely resembling the real fruit, and YET I love that artificial taste.
Ah, strawberry. The underappreciated, always second-to-cherry darling of the red candies. Strawberry consistently gets screwed and is the lost and sometimes forgotten middle child of candy. I love you strawberry, just not as much as the number one pick.
Are you really all that surprised? Cherry slides into first not only for being its remarkably jolly self, but for being cloyingly sweet, radiantly deep red, admirably long-lasting cherriness (and cheeriness) And Jolly Ranchers, of course, does that flavor the way it should be done: a winning concoction of red 40, laboratory-produced cherry, and a heaping dose of nostalgia.
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Amy Schulman used to be a candy fanatic, but now much prefers munching on a square of dark chocolate. Follow her on Instagram.