I always try to avoid overhyping things and using unnecessary exaggerations these days. The modern media is so obsessed with sensationalising everything that even the most powerful words are becoming increasingly tame and meaningless. However, in my opinion, the Mars Bar is absolutely iconic of British and Western culture. It is a true giant; found everywhere, known everywhere and advertised everywhere.
I think there is a very similar bar in the U.S called the Milky Way. Which isn’t like our Milky Way (which is a British version of the 3 Musketeers bar). Oh the confusion! The key information here though is that the Mars Bar is ‘milk chocolate with soft nougat and a caramel centre’. It’s probably the best known British chocolate bar in history, outstripping even the most famous of other alternatives like the Twix or Dairy Milk. You will not find an English person who hasn’t heard of a Mars Bar.
Us English eat them normally, whereas our Scottish neighbours even have a penchent for deep frying them. That’s right- a battered Mars Bar. It is the height of Western decadence… as if our sweet, indulgent bar isn’t lavish enough already, some Scots choose to batter it as well. I’ve never tried a battered Mars although I have tried a battered Lion bar. It was…well, a bit gross really. Biting into chocolate and getting a squelch of grease isn’t all that nice!
The Mars is 58g in weight, meaning that it’s got a pretty dense centre to it- don’t let the photos fool you. Whilst there appears to be little air pockets, they don’t make the bar as a whole light and fluffy like the Milky Way and 3 Musketeers bar are. The caramel and nougat are packed in and extremely compact, meaning each mouthful of this bar is…well, a real mouthful.
I don’t even know where to start when commenting on the appearance. Along with Coca Cola and McDonalds, the black and red colours of the Mars logo are probably more widely recognised and known than any other brand or company in the entire country. I always think of the scene from Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me documentary when he goes into an American school and the children don’t know who Jesus is when presented with a picture of him, but all scream out when a photo of Ronald McDonald is displayed. The Mars Bar has a similar effect- ask kids who the PM of British is…no chance. Show them a picture of Stonehenge and they’ll be clueless. However just the black and red colours alone from the Mars Bar will have them shouting out.
So, given how popular and almost legendary the Mars Bar is, I’m guessing those of you who are abroad and haven’t tried it will be assuming that it must be an incredible bar of chocolate? Well, one thing is for sure….it doesn’t smell outstanding in the slightest. In fact it isn’t all that attractivr really. The milk notes from the chocolate coating aren’t bad, but as a whole it is overly sweet and just a bit too full on. The caramel, the milk chocolate and the nougat centre combine to give it a seriously sickly scent.
I’m sure not going to deny that it is recognisable though. Whether we’re indoctrinated or what I don’t know, but even outside of the famous wrapper, I can tell a Mars Bar. Even though the bar is totally unbranded and just topped with wavy lines… even though it doesn’t have a unique smell to it…I just know it. Well done Mars’ marketing team, you’ve obviously done an amazing job- I could pick this in a blind taste, I could identify it in a blind smell, and I can tell what it is just from looking at the plain bar on its own.
The caramel in the Mars Bar is so thick and gloopy, as you can see from the photo one or two up the page. It has an incredible chewiness to it which means even a little bite takes a hell of a lot of chewing. But whilst the consistency is great, the taste of the caramel is extremely disappointing- it’s non-descript and dull. Not flavourless exactly but lacking in a defining flavour.
I really like the nougat on the other hand. It is somewhere inbetween a Milky Way and a 3 Musketeers bar in texture- it isn’t quite as airy and whipped as our British Milky Way, but it lacks the density of the 3 Musketeers. The predominant flavour is of chocolatey sweetness- this is a chocolate nougat rather than a heavy nutty version. It has a little richness to it and is very decent.
Finally there is the milk chocolate coating; a thin layer but with a degree of creaminess to the taste making it more than good enough for a bar like this (low brow and mass produced.)
The Mars Bar isn’t a fancy or clever bar of chocolate. But having eaten it, it’s extremely easy to understand why, like the Twix, this is such a chocolate beast and a big hit amongst consumers. The textures are good (with the sticky caramel and the chewy nougat) and the flavour isn’t bad at all. When you bite into the Mars Bar, it just feels ‘right’ as far as the proportions of the bar go- the caramel layer isn’t too thick, the nougat element is plentiful enough to give the bar some genuine chocolate flavour and the thin milk chocolate coating does the job.
I’ve never tried a U.S Milky Way bar so I’m quite intrigued to see how that stacks up against our British Mars Bar. But regardless of that, the Mars Bar is a more than creditable bar of chocolate and something which will remain an integral part of British culture; partly because of magnificent marketing and advertising…but also because it’s a solid product too.