May 26, 2014

18th Century Altoids: A Recipe from the 1790s and Beyond

18th Century Altoids Lozenges Recipe
The current day mints that we call Altoids have a long history. The recipe dates back at least to the 1780s, and were called peppermint lozenges. Peppermint lozenges were originally thought to cure upset stomachs. They were created as a convenient substitution for peppermint water which was used previously.     

By the early 1800s, doctors and chemists attest to the popularity of lozenges and mention the additional flavors of ginger and horehound.[1] By the 1860s, authors mention many additives such as liquorish, anise, black currant, cayenne, rose, lavender, rhubarb as well as others, including quinine.[2] 

They became popular as both medicine and candy throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. In modern times, there are few candies that have stuck with this simple recipe. Altoids is the most prominent company making them today. Their history with the recipe dates back to one of the early big producers in the 1780s, Smith and Co. who dubbed their brand of peppermint lozenges Altoids, but they weren't sold in the United States until the 20th century. The recipe remains very similar today.  [3]
1700s Altoids Lozenge Recipe

Peppermint Lozenges


- 16 oz Powdered Sugar + more for dusting
- 2 oz Gum Arabic, Gum Tragacanth or Tylose (more common in modern baking)
-Peppermint Oil
-Food Coloring


Mix sugar, gum and water in a bowl. If making one flavor, about 15 or so drops of oil and coloring can be added during the mixing process. If making multiple flavors, make the dough first and knead in the colors and flavors later. Let sit for 15 minutes. Roll out on a powdered sugar or cornstarched surface and cut shapes with a small cutter or large straw.  
Sprinkle your hands, workspace and rolling pin with powdered sugar or cornstarch.

***Alternatively, Modern gum paste can be bought and used as it has changed very little in recipe, most are a mixture of sugar and some type of gum. Many modern recipes for gum paste are also available online.

[1] Chamberlaine, W.. "Mr. Chamberlaine, on the Ammendments of the Medicine Act." In The Medical and Physical Journal, . London: Richard Phillips, 1803.
[2] Weatherley, Henry. A treatise on the art of boiling sugar, crystallizing, lozenge-making, comfits, gum goods, and
 other processes for confectionery, etc.: in which are explained, in an easy and familiar manner, the various methods of manufacturing every description of raw and refined sugar goods, as sold by the trade, confectioners, and others. Philadelphia: H.C. Baird, 1865.
[3] Altoids® (


  1. They seemed like they were going to turn out to be really good. Are they done drying yet? I hope they taste as good when they're dry as they did when we were making them! :D

  2. They are dry and taste good. :) You might not get a chance to taste any.

  3. Aw! Save some for me! I told them at work I'd bring some! :P

  4. Super interesting! :) Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thanks Sarah Lynn! I've been wondering what you've been up to.

  6. Wow. Looks really simple! Although I have no idea where I'd get a majority of the few ingrediences...
    And lozenges. I know I've encountered that word before. In a book, some office girl had a lozenge, I think, indicating she was an air-head and reckless. Something along those lines. :P

  7. I had no idea they'd been around for this long! Thanks for this, Stephanie.

    Interestingly enough, Altoids don't seem to be that common over here; I recall their presence in most US grocery stores but I can't remember the last time I saw them here. I'll have to have another look.

  8. When you made these, did you use the gum in powder form (2 oz. by dry weight) and add water to the whole, or was the gum already liquid (2 oz. liquid measure) and you added additional water to get the right consistency? Do you have any idea how much water you added to your one pound batch?

  9. I mixed powder with water. It's sort of weird in the fact that it will still make a gumpaste even if the measurements are a bit off. As long as the entire mixture creates a dough that doesn't stick to your hands, it should work.

  10. Replies
    1. For me, a couple of days but it really depends on the humidity in the room.


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