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This is the best gin drink you’ve probably never heard of

The Finnish Long Drink is a Scandinavian gem: Here's how it came to be and how to make it

A drink with a giant following turns 70 this year and chances are, you haven’t heard of it. The cocktail is dubbed The Finnish Long Drink and it’s a refreshing gin-based number that’s easy to mix up at home. The Scandinavian drink has quite the pedigree, born during a global sporting event and becoming a go-to for one of the happiest nations on the planet.

It all started in 1952, when Finland hosted the Summer Olympics. The masses descended on Helsinki to see the world’s best athletes and brought with them not just a hunger for entertainment and sport, but thirst. It was August, conditions were mild and fans needed something refreshing. Finland, a relatively small country, needed to efficiently serve a large audience and do so quickly and efficiently.

A view of Helsinki and the Gulf of Finland.
Ninara/Flickr (https://bit.ly/3Ec9MrE)

The government stepped in to commission an official drink. It was to be simple to make, in order to keep up with the sheer number of people who would be ordering. The Finnish Long Drink was born, a fizzy mix of gin and citrus soda. It’s called “lonkero” in its homeland and remains a vastly popular beverage, especially during the milder months. It’s sort of like the northern European version of Ranch Water, a drink that’s simultaneously minimalistic, deeply thirst-quenching, and not overly alcoholic.

Therein lies the beauty of The Finnish Long Drink. It’s got longevity. It’s a low-octane beverage you can sip on all day without losing your functionality. Better still, you can batch up large versions of it when you’re entertaining guests or looking to fill a thermos before adventuring out. And while the Finnish may make it a select way, it’s a drink that can be experimented with and doctored up to your personal liking.

These days, there are canned versions of the stuff (just arriving in the U.S.). And while those are tasty, you can also make your own at home—here’s how.

The soda

Most versions call for some kind of citrus soda, typically grapefruit in flavor. That said, there are many options out there, some better than others. Look to brands like Q Mixers or Fever Tree for high-end soda that really captures the flavor of the fruit. For something a little more playful and nostalgic (and a little sweeter), seek out a can or two of Squirt or even a few bottles of Jarritos.

You can also go the tonic route and flavor it yourself with freshly squeezed grapefruit. Go one step further and play around with a few other additions, like fresh blood orange, a touch of tangerine, or even a splash of apricot liqueur.

Finnish Lonkero Recipe

There are several renditions of The Finnish Long Drink but as we’re well into fall, we especially like this one from A Couple Cooks. It takes on some cranberry, citrus, and a good gin, a combination that never gets old.

Two ice-cold glasses of gin with blood orange garnish with cocktail sticks on a table.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 4 ounces grapefruit soda
  • 1/2 ounce cranberry juice
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • Citrus for garnish

Method

  1. In an ice-filled glass, stir the gin, lemon juice, and cranberry juice together.
  2. Top with soda and garnish with citrus.

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