Every Flavor of Jolly Rancher, Ranked by Jolliness
Hard candies can often dredge up traumatic memories of "treats" of dubious origin delivered from the pockets and purses of the elderly. But for years, Jolly Ranchers have managed to hoist the reputation of hard candy back into a place of honor, wrapping a rainbow of neon candies into tight bows and packaging them in cheerful bags geared towards the youths, while your grandma continues to suck on yellow Life Savers. But not all Jolly Ranchers instill jolliness equally, so we ranked them accordingly.
Let’s just get grape out of the way, shall we? Grape candy inherently tastes like those days spent home with the flu, cautiously tipping purple cough medicine down your throat. In no world was that a place of jolliness. And neither is a grape Jolly Rancher.
11. Blue, Green, and Pink Sour Surge
These deserve to be grouped together because a) they all elicit the same dust-induced cough, and b) they’re not even remotely sour. If you’re not a wimp and going for that true Warhead tears-are-leaking-from-my-every-pore-of-my-body feeling, buy some Warheads.
10. Cinnamon Fire
It could just be a me thing, but there’s something horrifying about the kinds of people who actively choose to chew cinnamon gum or suck on cinnamon candies, who live for that self-inflicted, certainly angry, fiery burn. If you’re that in need of something to disguise your garlic breath, try a Tic Tac.
9. Mountain Berry
Part of Jolly Ranchers’ tropical fruit line, 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 what actually grows in the ground. Suck on it for long enough, though, and it manages to lose its flavor entirely. But it’s guaranteed that your tongue will turn a deep shade of purple, and that is more jolly than not.
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.
6. Fruit Punch
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.
4. Green Apple
Green apple flavoring is strange, as 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. That's not to say that addiction is jolly. But these candies are.
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. It just so happens that strawberry consistently gets screwed, what with cherry being its entitled omnipresent self, lurking in just about everything. But I digress; back to strawberry, the lost and sometimes forgotten middle child of candy. Here the color is perfectly pink, and upon tossing one into your mouth, a sweet reminder of spreading strawberry jam on toast, or scraping at a swipe of strawberry coulis from a plate of chocolate cake. Today, though, strawberry gets its jolly due -- even if, yet again, it comes in second place.
Are you really all that surprised (I did, after all, give it away during my deep discussion of strawberry)? Cherry slides into first not only for being its remarkably jolly self -- cloyingly sweet, radiantly deep red, admirably long-lasting cherriness (and cheeriness) -- but for also reminding me of the innocent days of my youth spent funneling red candy down my throat, my tongue wildly crimson and my fingers sticky and coated with a grimy layer of fine sugar. Cherry is always there, no matter the situation -- squeezed into bottles of cold medicine or frozen in popsicle logs, bright and cheery among its pale lemon and lime counterparts. 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.