One of the most popular popsicles on the market in Japan is the Suika Bar. Translating to “Watermelon Bar”, this icy confection is shaped like a slice of watermelon and looks just like one, with red watermelon juice and chocolate “seeds” scattered throughout.
Particularly popular with young people during the summer months, the Suika Bar sometimes appears in limited-edition flavours, and this month they’ve snuck an especially weird one onto the market.
▼ Say hello to the “Enchanted!? Suika Bar"
What makes this new icy pole so different isn’t just the unusual packaging. Nor is it the fact that the watermelon slice appears to be purple instead of red. No — what makes this confection different is the fact that it contains alcohol.
Our Japanese-language reporter Egawa Tasuku stumbled upon the new Suika Bar in the ice cream freezer at the convenience store, with a handwritten note beside it that read: “This product contains alcohol. Those who are sensitive to alcohol, please be aware.”
An alcoholic Suika Bar was something Egawa had never seen before so he immediately purchased a couple and took them home to see what they would taste like. Looking closely at the package once he got home, he could see the bar’s well-known hippo character with a concerned look on its face, beside a warning label that read: “This product contains alcohol. Alcohol content 0.2 percent”.
Now you might be wondering if this bar, usually a favorite choice for children in its non-alcoholic form, would be okay for kids to eat. Egawa wondered this too, but there are no restrictions against children purchasing this product, due to the low alcohol content.
There are, after all, liqueur chocolates on the market like Bacchus and Rummy, which contain 3.2-percent and 3.7-percent alcohol respectively. Plus, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries stipulates that the alcohol content of narazuke (traditional Japanese pickles made with sake) needs to be at least 3.5 percent or more. It’s not uncommon for children to eat these sorts of pickles, and even liqueur chocolates if they’re lying around the house, without any ill or drunken effects so the decision as to whether children should eat these popsicles or not is not so much a legal matter as it is a moral one.
▼ According to the packaging, this product contains “Western alcohol jelly”.
Western alcohol usually refers to wine or spirits like vodka, as opposed to Japanese sake or shochu. Taking a look at the back of the packet failed to reveal exactly what type of western liquor was used in the making of the product, but it did say it contained both cherry and watermelon juice.
Though it contained watermelon juice, it certainly didn’t look like an ordinary Suika Bar. The “enchanted!?” bar had turned purple, and instead of the familiar crunchy chocolate pieces, there were smooth jelly pieces instead.
After taking a bite, Egawa felt he got a very faint taste of alcohol from the liquor-infused jellies. It wasn’t a really harsh taste of alcohol, though — more like the tart bite you’d get from a slightly fermented overripe pear.
It was fruity and delicious, and when the popsicle was still frozen, the jelly pieces were slightly crunchy. After a while, the bar warmed up a little, melting the jelly pieces ever so slightly, changing their texture. This change in texture as you eat the bar is a really fantastic idea, and Egawa actually preferred the slightly melted jelly mouthfeel.
That’s when he remembered he’d purchased two of these popsicles, and the other one was on the table, melting rapidly. That gave him the idea to let it melt all the way through, and then pour the whole thing into a glass.
▼ He happened to have a lemon sour handy so he added that in as well.
Before he knew it, he’d created a cocktail, and the lemon and watermelon flavors blended together beautifully. It was a fantastic beverage and one that Egawa would try again in a heartbeat.
Priced at 151 yen, the Enchanted!? Suika Bar is only available for a limited time. Its purple hue and “enchanted” nature hints that this is a special treat designed for the Halloween season, because this is the time of year when everything from doughnuts to McDonald’s fries turn a spooky shade of purple.
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