Drink of the Week: The Finnish Long Drink

For those who regard drinks as a simple substance to slake the thirst or perhaps catch a buzz (be it caffeine or booze), you might be surprised to learn of the often deep historic and cultural ties that lie behind your favorite beverages. Take the Finnish Long Drink as an example. A crisp, ready-to-drink canned cocktail, the beverage bears the characteristics of the current drinking zeitgeist. But the Finnish Long Drink dates its creation long before RTD drinks were making waves on market shelves.

The drink was created for the 1952 Helsinki Summer Olympics. Finland, still recovering from World War II, wanted a signature beverage that could be served quickly to the influx of visitors. And thus lonkero (long drink) was born—a mixture of gin and grapefruit soda, premixed and bottled. Originally produced by Helsinki-based beverage company Hartwall, the drink grew so popular that soon it was a staple served on tap in bars.

Originally, the Finnish government owned the rights to the manufacturing of the drinks, passing along the contract to a new company every three years. This was discontinued when Finland joined the EU in 1995. Suddenly an influx of makers could bring their Long Drinks to market. Today, while a multitude of brands crowd the shelves in Finland and it remains one of the best-selling categories, few have made it stateside, leaving the concept of the Finnish Long Drink still rather novel.

In 2017, friends Ere Partanen, Sakari Manninen, Mikael Taipale, and Evan Burns founded The Long Drink Company to launch their own canned version (named straightforwardly The Finnish Long Drink) specifically in the U.S. Launched the following year, the easy-drinking cocktail quickly garnered fans and celebrity investors. By 2022 it was noted to be the fastest-growing drinks brand in the world. The Finnish Long Drink is available in four varieties: Traditional, Zero Sugar, Strong (at 8.5 percent ABV rather than the 5.5 percent of the rest), and Cranberry. My suggestion is to crack open a Traditional can first for some crisp, lightly sweet, and historical refreshment. $14.99/6-pack, totalwine.com

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