In Finland, Long Drink Is a Cultural Legend With American Ties
In 2022, for the fifth consecutive year, Finland was named the happiest country on Earth by the World Happiness Report. One way to celebrate is by saying “kippis” and raising a glass of Finland’s national beverage, lonkero, also known as long drink.
Traditionally, long drinks were made with gin, distilled from Finland’s Juniper berries, and grapefruit soda. At the time of origin, lonkero was pre-mixed in bottles and refreshing, not too sweet with just a hint of alcohol.
The history of long drinks dates to the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, when the country was still recovering from the effects of World War II. The Finnish government wanted to create something that was quick to make with easy-drinking appeal, so Hartwall, a beverage company that’s also based in Helsinki, invented the recipe to help local bartenders serve the influx of tourists and spectators with ease. And so, the first long drinks were commissioned.
From the 1950s on, the popularity of Hartwall’s long drinks grew, becoming a Finnish bar tap staple with the government permitting production contracts to one beverage company at a time, allowing them to own the manufacturing rights for three years, and then the government passed them along to another company.
At the time, Finland had strict controls on the sale of alcohol, so the Finnish government created Alko, the national alcohol retail chain of Finland, to control the sale of alcohol products.
“The Finnish government owned the rights for all of long drinks manufacturing until 1995,” says Ere Partanen, co-founder of The Finnish Long Drink. “This process continued for years up until Finland joined the European Union in 1995.”
After Finland became part of the EU, multiple brands could create long drinks simultaneously. It soon became a category of cocktail, appearing packaged in stores as well as on tap in bars and restaurants.
“Having a beverage that’s so ingrained in our history and culture is what makes long drink special to so many Finns,” says Tony Klärck, Finland’s winner of Difford’s Guide 2020 Bartender Choice Awards. “It’s also often associated with other typical aspects of our native Finnish culture, such as ice swimming, saunas, midsummer festivities, etc.”
Long drink is now not only the best-selling category in Finland, but it has also become a global phenomenon. This legend has also crossed over into multiple American markets packaged in cans and sold by retailers like Total Wine, and has ad campaigns streaming across TV and online platforms such as YouTube and social media.
In 2018, Partanen, along with his Finnish friends Evan Burns, Sakari Manninen and Mikael Taipale, plus celebrity investors Miles Teller and DJ Kygo, founded and launched The Finnish Long Drink in the U.S. This line of ready-to-drink sparkling citrus cocktails riffs off the original Hartwall creation and comes in 12-ounce cans with four varieties: Traditional Citrus (5.5% abv), Zero (5% abv), Cranberry (5.5% abv) and Strong (8.5% abv).
“Our mission is to bring the national drink of Finland to America,” says Partanen, calling Finnish long drink “our country’s best kept secret.”
But don’t mistake the classic gin, freshly sourced water and natural grapefruit drink with the canned Finnish Long Drink cocktail. In theory, the Finnish Long Drink is a canned sparkling citrus soda mixed drink and comes in a can.
“We never call lonkero, aka the original long drink recipe, a canned cocktail,” says Partanen. “Trust me, you can’t mix a real long drink. We tried, and you don’t get as good of a taste in your home kitchen.
Klärck states, “Since long drink is offered on tap in Finland, if you ask a bartender to ‘mix you a long drink,’ they would laugh at you and crack open a can.”
Published on July 7, 2022