I have a soft, chewy, lightly pliable spot in my heart for most sour gummies, but I'm far from an equal opportunity employer when it comes to which sour gummy candy is going to be elected for the position of mayor of my mouth. Sure, the occasional Sour Brite Crawler might find its way past my lips.* I've been known to make a meal out of Sour S'ghetti, and I'd never turn down a Sour Cherry Cola Bottle if it were offered in, say, a buffet setting.
*Though only half way, mind you. The only correct way to eat them is to bite them in half right where the two colors meet to confirm that yes, the yellow and red do taste different.
But today I'm here to talk about my favorite, the sour gummy ne plus ultra, the Sour Patch Kid. And any Sour Patch aficionado worth their citric acid powder knows this simple fact: not all SPKs are created equal.
At the bottom of the ladder are the rock hard, non-pliable kids served out of those acrylic bulk crates in over-air-conditioned candy shops or malls.
They have everything going against them: Not only are they slowly losing moisture in the open environment of a bulk bin, but they're also being served at below optimal temperature (this causes them to harden), and they're continually losing citric acid powder every time some grubby little kid (who can't possible be enjoying the tart treats on the same level as I am) roots around in there trying to pick out his favorite color. And of course, that means that bulk bin SPKs always have fewer red ones than they should
On top of all that, there's yet another downside: bulk bins never contain blue raspberry, the best flavor of all. Introduced less than a decade ago, blue raspberry SPKs are the stuff that sticky-toothed, jellied dreams are made of. And don't even try to tell me that raspberries aren't blue. THEY ARE BLUE, DAMMIT.
So where does one find the best SPKs? I'm gonna let you in on a little secret: the movie theater. As a lover of both hot buttered popcorn* and only buying unreasonably priced-and-sized snack foods one at a time, it wasn't until my wife ordered a box of SPKs one day that I was turned on to this fact. Sure, they're probably costing you about $7 a box and sure, people will give you that stage-whispered yell when you use your cell phone's flashlight to try and see which colors are in your hand in the darkened movie theater,** but it's worth it, I tell you.
*Particularly at the suburban theaters where they still pop on-premises and you may even get the concession stand worker to put a layer of butter in the middle and on the top if you're nice enough.
**I'm sorry, is my quest for blue Sour Patch Kids somehow disrupting you from enjoying your precious little film? Is the quest for the finest candy ever crafted putting you off your movie? Well Excuuuuuuuuuuse me, Princess!
I don't know whether they use a different formula for the gummies or perhaps just package them better, but movie theater Sour Patch Kids are the softest, gummiest, tender SPKs around, all the better for molding to the shape of the roof of your mouth as you gently massage it with your tongue, extracting every last fleck of citric acid out from between the arms, the legs, and the four balls of hair on top of each of their sweet little heads. If you do this process correctly, the roof of your mouth should be cut up good and proper by Kid number 13 or so.
But this is ok. That's the kind of invigorating pain that lets you know you're still alive.
You want a guaranteed way to become that house on Halloween? No, I'm not talking the one that gives pennies or envelopes with bible quotes. I'm talking the one house that becomes legendary in really tiny circles for the week after Halloween for giving out the very best candy. Here's how: take out a loan, go to your local movie theater, buy up all the SPKs, and give 'em out. You can even divide the boxes into smaller portions if you're short on cash. Just don't do it until the day of Halloween lest they start to dry and harden.
Speaking of those hair nubs, where the heck do they come from, and what kind of kid were they modeling these things after? Turns out that Sour Patch Kids were never meant to be kids at all. They were originally conceived in the 1970's as martian-shaped candies. It was only after the Cabbage Patch Kids came along that the exact same candy was rebranded to piggyback off the dolls' popularity.
Guess which one of the two ended up sticking around like modified corn starch-thickened corn syrup between your teeth? Yeah, you know which one.
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.