It's that time of the year for enjoying special sweets, but it wouldn't quite be Christmastime without one in particular: the candy cane. The refreshing peppermint sticks are used today in many yuletide-related recipes and taste just dandy on their own, but the history behind them is a bit mysterious. There's an old yarn that the sticks originated in Germany in the 1600s when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral asked a local candy maker for something he could give to the children who attended the Christmas Eve mass to keep them quiet. The candy maker made the sticks and added the hook at one end to represent the shepherds who visited baby Jesus. But the story has never been proven and in fact, the first known recipe for candy canes wasn't published until 1844, and the striped sticks were made straight. In 1880, a German immigrant was the first to decorate his Christmas tree with the treats, most notably because the shape made them suitable for hanging. Some also say that the hook in the cane was meant to represent a J shape for Jesus. One thing that is certain: it was an American candy man who was responsible for the mass production of the canes in the U.S. In 1919, Bob McCormack of Albany, Georgia began making candy canes for the local children. By the 1950s, his company had become the leading producer of candy canes in America. There was one glitch, though--the hooks had to be fashioned by hand, and the candy sticks often broke. In 1957, Gregory Harding Keller patented his Keller Machine, which automated the production of candy canes and twisted the soft confectionery into curved shapes before it was allowed to harden. Today, nearly 2 billion candy canes are made each year in the weeks leading up to Christmas. They're used in ice cream, cakes, and peppermint bark, but my favorite way to enjoy them is as a stirrer for hot chocolate in my Jack's Moscow Mule Cup. Try it sometime! On behalf of everyone at Jacob Bromwell, we wish you and yours a very happy holiday season!