Editor's note: Every weekday in October, the Serious Eats editors and staff will chat about a candy they loved as kids (or love today). Artificial colors encouraged, no organic chocolate allowed.
To say that I was a competitive kid would be something of an understatement. I always had to jump the farthest off the swing (terrifying parents and babysitters), dominate the spelling bee (yes, I'll confess to studying the dictionary), and climb the highest in the trees (scrapes and falls be damned). And when Halloween came around? I'd prove my toughness and bravery with Warheads*.
Just thinking about these super-tart candies can still make my mouth pucker, though I'm sure I haven't eaten one in a decade. The googly-eyed, disoriented-looking cartoon guy on the wrapper pretty much sums it up. They're powerfully, intensely sour on first taste, scrunching your face up instantly, and making your eyes water if you try to fight the face-scrunch. Apparently they're coated in malic acid, though at the time I just thought of it as "sour powder." Underneath there's a totally unremarkable hard candy. My preferred flavor was green apple, but it doesn't really matter. Like 18-year-olds with alcohol, it's nothing to do with taste and everything to do with sensation (and proving your mettle).
It's sort of like eating good Sichuan food—the sheer rush of heat, then the calming numbness that convinces you that you want the heat again. Warheads give you that sour hit and then a candy that's dull enough that you find yourself going back for another fix.
*The Warheads website is actually kind of hysterical, with little widgets that let you customize your Warheads experience. Who spends enough time on this site to want to customize their Warheads experience?!
As kids, we used to go through bags of them at a time, competing for who could eat the most in a row, who could eat the most without breaking into a pucker-face, or who could suck on the most at once (I think the record was about 25—I'm shocked no one ever choked).
Today, there are Warhead sour liquids and sprays and powders, which seems even weirder to me; with those, you're actually admitting that the only reason you like Warheads is for the weird sour rush. The fun part about the hard drops is that you know you're only in it for the experience, whereas to adults and outsiders, you're just chomping on candy. You feel like you're getting away with something, which is the best feeling to have when you're a kid.
This is not a four-year-old me, but it does look shockingly like four-year-old me would've after a few Warheads.