A Regional Product of Antwerp
Antwerpse Handjes, or in English Antwerp Hands, are a regional product of Antwerp, Belgium. The hand-shape, which is typical for these chocolates, is a reference to the birth of Antwerp. Legend has the giant Antigoon chopped off hands of sailors that refused to pay toll to enter the port of Antwerp until one day he was defeated by Brabo. Brabo, in turn, chopped of Antigoon's hands and threw them in the river Schelde.
When you visit Antwerp you'll see plenty of references to this legend in the form of hand-statues, hand-logos, or—in this case—chocolates. In addition to chocolates, there's also an almond cookie that's referred to as Antwerpse Handjes but the chocolates seem more common. The term is not associated with a particular brand. You could stumble upon artisanal Antwerpse Handjes made by a local bakery or chocolatier. Most likely though, you'll encounter the ones made by Andes, which are the ones we tested.
A small set of 12 or 48 chocolates and a booklet about the city of Antwerp is all that comes in this Antwerp Hands gift set, or as Andes call it, "Luxury edition".
Filling or No Filling?
We bought our Antwerp Hands in a Leonidas shop in the city center. When we first tried them, we were surprised by an anise-flavored liquor filling. This liquor is also a regional product, so I can see why they used it in these chocolates. This product is all about showcasing Antwerp. That's made even clearer through the included booklet, The Antwerp Experience. This booklet is nothing more than pictures of some tourist hot spots. It doesn't even include where to find them or any clue to what they are or mean. The chocolates, the filling, the booklet, they're all part of the marketing in this "Antwerp Experience".
The problem with this filling is that this regional liquor, called Elixir D'Anvers, is very much an acquired taste. Most people would find it quite unpleasant tasting. Me and my wife, as well as 10 co-workers who tried one, all agreed on this. This doesn't mean you should necessarily hold this against the chocolates. Especially since there is a version made of solid chocolate, leaving out the liquor entirely. What does bother me is the complete lack of mention of this liquor on the box, except for the ingredients list. The sets with solid chocolates and the liquor-filled versions are only distinguishable by the color of the label. Some fault also lies with the store: We asked for a box of Antwerpse Handjes and the store clerk didn't ask us which kind.
Overall, I can't really recommend these chocolates. You'll pay between 12 and 15 euros for 12 chocolates, so they're fairly expensive. The included booklet has some pictures of tourist hotspots and museums but, in my opinion, adds no value to the product. The lack of any mention of the anise-flavored filling is really unforgivable. Especially when you consider that these chocolates are typically bought by tourists. We suggest you skip these and seek out one of the artisanal chocolatiers in Antwerp instead.
Have you tasted Antwerp Hands? What do you think about them? We'd love to hear it!