Skip to main content

The Finnish long drink is the best gin cocktail 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 view of Helsinki and the Gulf of Finland.
Ninara / Flickr

A drink with a giant following has been around for over 70 years 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.

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 new gin drink. 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 Finnish drink (just arriving in the U.S.). And while those are tasty, you can also make your own at home — here’s how.

Soda water with a lemon
Image used with permission by copyright holder

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.

Refreshing Gin Tom Collins Cocktail with Lemon
Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock

Traditional Finnish Long Drink recipe

If you want to try this special taste of Finland for yourself, you don’t have to head all the way to Helsinki (but if you do, you won’t be sorry, it’s an amazing place). No, you can make the Finnish Long Drink in the comfort of your own home, and as a bonus, you really don’t need to have fancy bartender skills to make this refreshing gin-and-citrus cocktail.

Ingredients

  • Ice
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice (freshly squeezed is best)
  • 2 ounces white grapefruit juice
  • 2 ounces gin
  • 3 ounces citrus-flavored soda (such as Fresca)
  • Club soda
  • Citrus fruit for garnish (grapefruit is traditional, but you can also use other fruits like lemon)

Method

  1. Fill a highball glass with ice.
  2. Add lemon juice, gin, grapefruit juice, and citrus soda.
  3. Stir to combine.
  4. Top with club soda and lightly stir.
  5. Garnish with citrus fruit.
Two ice-cold glasses of gin with blood orange garnish with cocktail sticks on a table.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Alternative Finnish Lonkero recipe

There are several renditions of the Finnish Long Drink available out there, but if you’re looking for one that would go well in the colder months, especially the 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. And you really don’t need to wait — this one is good year-round.

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.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
The best sparkling water cocktails to rival hard seltzers
Like hard seltzers? You can make even more flavorful drinks at home with these great sparkling water cocktail recipes
Fresh spring sparkling water

With all due respect to the White Claw crowd, there are better hard seltzer options out there. Among them are the recipes you can tackle at home, provided you have at least a few popular spirits. After all, while canned cocktails can be delicious, it's tough to top one made fresh, especially when there's citrus and other fruit involved.

Bartenders know that sparkling water is a key ingredient in many cocktails and having some soda water or club soda ready is always a good idea. Sparkling water can balance out ingredients, add some fizzy texture, and impart a pleasant sense of minerality. Yes, it's clear and neutral looking but it pops with energy and is just begging to be in your next favorite cocktail.

Read more
The classic vodka cocktails you need to know how to make
Here are some simple recipes that require vodka as the star ingredient
Moscow mule cocktail with lime and mint in a copper mug

Vodka may never wear the royal crown when it comes to celebrated spirits. But that's just fine, as the relatively neutral spirit tends to do better as a mixer than a standalone drink. Granted, there are some remarkable top-shelf vodkas out there, but by and large, this spirit wants to jump in the glass with some other ingredients and play around.

Want some more reasons to appreciate vodka? Let's start with price point, as it tends to be one of the most inexpensive spirits out there. Next, let's chat about its versatility. That mild flavor can do well with just about anything (yup, even a good vodka pasta sauce). Lastly, it's a fun drink with lots of history and folklore. This is the stuff of ice bars, caviar chasers, and, in some cases, putting potatoes to work.

Read more
How to make the Aviation cocktail, a drink almost lost to history
The cocktail renaissance brought this classic drink back to the forefront
Aviation

The cocktail renaissance of the last two decades has brought many classic cocktails seemingly lost to time back to the forefront. While the Old Fashioned is the most notable (and never really went away completely), the list also includes drinks like the Sazerac, Americano, Martinez, Boulevardier, and many more. But there's one drink in particular that disappeared for decades and almost didn't come back at all. We're talking about the Aviation.
What is the Aviation?

The last cocktail mentioned might not get the press of the Old Fashioned or even the Manhattan, Negroni, or classic no-frills Daiquiri, but it’s no less memorable. This elegant, flavorful, complex cocktail is historically made with only four ingredients. They are gin, maraschino, liqueur, lemon juice, and crème de violette. Some contemporary recipes opt not to use the latter ingredient.
When was the Aviation cocktail created?

Read more