Finland is a nation where half the population are pissed by dinnertime. They like to drink themselves into a state of suicidal depression. Long dark winters, a high dependency on the welfare state, and a lack of human interaction due to a low population density are some of the explanations banded around for this phenomenon. However, one idea often overlooked is the popularity of their national drink, Lonkero, which in English simply means ‘Long Drink’. However, before we take a closer look it’s important to look back at the history of alcohol in Finland, in order to understand the rise of the drink.
Following the first world war, Finland introduced a strict policy of prohibition, which managed to last until 1932, and just like the USA, a large illegal industry grew in the production of homemade alcohol, or moonshine as it’s colloquially known. This brought in a wave of popularity for strong alcoholic drinks. In 1952, Helsinki had the prestigious honour of hosting the summer Olympics. As a result, Finland was expecting a huge influx of foreign visitors, and given the fact that there was no cocktail culture in the country, the state monopoly on alcohol decided to introduce ‘long drink’ as a way of courting their foreign visitors. It is essentially a pre-mixed drink containing Gin and Grapefruit soda. It took off in a big way, and today it is still one of the most popular drinks in Finland. In order to widen the market it is now available in a variety of styles in the state run alcohol shops and on draft in the bars and nightclubs. Here is a guide to the variety of Lonkero available today:
Hartwall, Original Gin Long Drink, 5.5%, 33cl Can – The original and best without doubt, a light grey colour, slightly carbonated, and a subtle bittersweet taste of Gin and Grapefruit.
Hartwall, Light Gin Long Drink, 5.5%, 33cl Can – As is the case with light versions of any alcohol drink, it’s an attempt to widen the market to include people who are concerned with the media fuelled obsession of having a perfect figure. Whilst this version contains a tenth of the carbohydrates, it is replaced by three times as many E numbers, which makes the taste distinctly more artificial.
Hartwall, Strong Gin Long Drink, 7.5%, 33cl Can – One for the seasoned drinkers and those wanting to put the hammer down. It’s nothing different than the original besides a stronger Gin taste. Be done with it and get to isolation stage of drunk.
Hartwall, Cranberry Gin Long Drink, 5.5%, 33cl Can – A marked variation on the original with Grapefruit being replaced by Cranberry. Now whilst Cranberry doesn’t have the wide appeal as flavours such as orange or lemon, and does keep the drink to an obscure taste, it is too much of a radical departure from the original, and besmirches the original flavour. Again, it’s another attempt to widen the market, but beware of any variation from Grapefruit, no other fruit works well with Gin. Overall: ok for novelty value, and comes in alluring red colour; yet regarded as a different drink altogether.
Hartwall, Original Gin Long Drink, 35cl Bottle, 5.5% – Novelty, smoother taste. Set yourself aside from the rest by drinking lonkero from a retro bottle. The drink is sometimes referred to as the ‘beautiful lady’, as 1952 was also the only year that Finland won the Miss World Contest.
Solera, Suomi Long Drink, 33cl Can, 5.5% - The closest imitation to the original, which claims to use the original 1952 formula.
Sinebrychoff, Dry Grapefruit Long Drink, 4.7& 50cl Can – It tastes like model trains but is only a first class ticket to stomach pains. Beware of fake imitations that appear in supermarkets. The versions in the supermarkets are just an alcoholic soda that is brewed to match the taste, and drastically fail. Only the versions available in Alko (state run liquor stores) and bars actually have real Gin inside. Sinebrychoff do actually produce a real version, which is not bad. Also the Estonian brewer A le Coq produce a version, which is cheaper, yet does not cut the mustard.
In summary, Lonkero is mainly drunk by young people who use it as a gateway into drinking and old people who enjoy Gin for what it is, and there are few in-between these ages that regularly drink the stuff. It is perfect for a morning drink or to settle the stomach at the start of a session, and it is also good at the end of a session when the beer makes the stomach too bloated.
As with Gin in general, Lonkero has the ability to make you feel amazing if you are already happy, and will lead you to depression if you are already feeling sad. So given the fact that it is such a popular drink, it can be regarded as a factor of a spike in depression and suicide in the country, which aptly reflects the national stereotypical psyche.
|Stick to the originals available in Alko|