The story of the Finnish Long Drink

While in Finland, I discovered the ubiquitious ready-to-drink Finish lonkero or “Long Drink.” Widely available in Finnish liquor stores the Finish Long Drink was even more widely available out. I’d be in restaurants or saunas with only one or two drinks on draft, and without fail the Finnish Long Drink was one of them.

For the unfamiliar the Finnish Long Drink was first produced by Hartwall for the 1952 Summer Olympics. For students of Olympic history, this might be best remembered as the first summer olympics since 1912 where medals were not awarded for art (which is a shame that hometown talent Aale Tynni wasn’t able to defend her 1948 gold medal in Literature for Laurel of Hellas, but I digress). This meant that while the Hartwall Long Drink itself wasn’t eligible for any medals, the blend of grapefruit soda and gin would have to settle for wining hearts. And that it did.

The Finnish Long Drink is normally an about to 5%–8% alcoholic beverage generally composed as a combination of gin and grapefruit. The product was discontinued in the 1970s, however, due to popularity (and a good dose of nostalgia) that original Hartwall drink returned.

Since, others have made their own takes on it. Some have even tried naturally fermenting variations. But what’s interesting is that not too long ago the Finnish Long Drink was a thing that visitors to Finland would remember only in their scrapbooks. The Finnish long drink is making it way out of Finland and expanding across two continents. In 2015, Hartwall signed agreements to get the drink on shelves in the Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium. In 2016, they expanded to Asian markets including Japan. Outside of markets where it’s widely available, it inspires a cult following. Reviewers of a Brighton, UK bar point it out prominently in a Trip Advisor review: “Quirky bar serving the Finnish Long Drink.”  The Finnish Long Drink is truly global. Hopefully (for me) it makes its way to North America soon.

Drinking the Finnish Long Drink in Finland

Hartwall Original Long Drink

Hartwall Original Finnish Long Drink

White grapefruit flesh on the nose… The palate is much less sweet than I expected. Acidic grapefruit early, with gin notes coming on most strongly mid-palate. Crisp juniper and citrus depth.  Heavy grapefruit notes predominate, but with a gentle crisp and gently dry finish. There’s no bitterness here, but it does have a certain crispness that calls to mind a Gin and Tonic. [Full Review]

Laitilan Gini Long DrinkLaitilan Gini Long Drink

A bit of Squirt on the nose, and a note of ruby red grapefruit as well, along with the more expected white grapefruit juice notes. On the palate, it’s grapefruit early and late. The juniper is rather dull and not very clear amidst the overwhelming grapefruit. While Laitilan Gini Long Drink has a nice grapefruit flavor, there’s not as much London Dry Gin here as I was hoping. [Full Review]

Making the Finnish Long Drink at Home

So naturally, with it not being available, I sought out to recreate the drink at home.

Finnish Long Drink with Squirt

Long Drink #1: With Squirt

Given that the primarily flavor was grapefruit soda, I immediately thought that the widely available Pepsi product Squirt might make a good Long Drink.

I tried a couple of ratios. But no matter the combination, both the Gin Wife and I agreed: this one is too sweet. Here’s our preferred ratio of the ones we tried:

4 parts Squirt
3 parts Tanqueray Gin
1 part Tonic Water
Build over ice and stir gently to combine. 

Finnish Long Drink with Fresca

Long Drink #2: With Fresca

I used the same ratio as in the above example, but this time with Coca-Cola’s answer to grapefruit soda: Fresca. This was waaaaaaay closer to the Long Drink I had in Finland and actually comes fairly close to replicating the canned ones.


Long Drink #3: With Grape Tonic

I found dialing the gin up to almost parity (1:1) created a nice balance of grapefruit and juniper. I’d suggest a more classic 1 part gin, 2 parts Grape Tonic, garnished with a lemon wedge to add a nice counterpoint to the grapefruit. Though sadly this option is probably for Finns only, as I haven’t seen Grape Tonic anywhere other than Finland. [Grape Tonic Review]

2 parts Grape Tonic
1 part Juniper forward gin
Build over ice and garnish with a lemon wedge. 

Finnish Long Drink with Pomplemo

Long Drink #4: With a Sparkling Grapefruit Juice

We used a Grapefruit Soda such as Izze, though there are many others on the market which come close. The key is to ensure that it has real grapefruit juice and sweetening among its ingredients.

1 parts Izze Sparkling Grapefruit Juice
1 parts Tanqueray Gin
a splash of Tonic Water
Build over ice and stir gently to combine. 

This Long Drink comes close in terms of flavor, but leaves a lot to be lacking in terms of color. It’s one of my favorites to drink, but no one will dare mistake this for a Finnish Long Drink. If the color is important to you, sparkling grapefruit juices closer to San Pellegrino’s Pomplemo are worth taking a look at; however, for us the flavor was off. The white grapefruit flavor was far too tart and didn’t replicate the drink whatsoever.

Long Drink #5: With Fresh White Grapefruit

¾ oz. fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
¼ oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
a scant ½ oz. of simple syrup
1½ oz. Tanqueray Gin
Shake ingredients with ice to combine, strain into a high ball glass with ice
Top with 3 oz. of Q Tonic
Stir and serve.

Fresh grapefruit alone didn’t provide as much of a similar flavor to the Long Drink. The touch of lemon juice brings it a bit closer in line with the flavor of Squirt and Fresca.

But the truth is that the Finnish long drink seems so reliant on that odd, nearly unreplicable note of Grapefruit soda that I’m not sure there is a combination of fresh ingredients that will replace it. This drink overall is a nice citrusy and slightly-sweeter-than-your-usual Gin and Tonic.

Fresca makes the best Lonkero stateside

Final Thoughts

Until the Finnish Long Drink arrives stateside, these attempts are the best we have. My recommendation is The Long Drink with Fresca. It was the closest to the original.

DIY Finnish Long Drink

When you can’t be in Finland but you still want a long drink, there’s some good news. You can get reasonably close with only what’s available at your local grocery. 

  • 4 parts Fresca
  • 3 parts Classic gin ((like Tanqueray))
  • 1 part Tonic Water ((like Q Tonic))
  1. Build over ice and stir gently to combine. 

Otherwise, for those of you fortunate enough to live in a place where the Long Drink is widely accessible, I recommend grabbing the real thing.


Leave a Comment

11 thoughts on “The story of the Finnish Long Drink”

  1. Unfortunately, last I checked— no. But I’m always surprised by what you can find sometimes. If you do see it, let me know.

  2. I just tried the Long Drink. I’m in Atlanta, Ga. What a great drink. It id remind me of a drink we used to make with Fresca and Vodka, but this is MUCH better. Thanks for bringing it to Atlanta.

  3. Just discovered The Finnish Long Drink in northern Ohio (haven’t looked yet where I live in Cincinnati). Taking the Fresca recipe, we also added an extract of juniper berries in gin. Gin + 20-30 berries in a small mason jar, sitting for about two months as of now. Added about 10 drops to the Fresca recipe. It definitely rounds it out.
    If your extract sits for longer, like 6 months, then probably dial that back to 3-5 drops.

  4. I learned about this by spotting it, and buying it, from Target of all places. My ancestry is Finnish but I’ve never been. I was surprised to see a Finnish thing on a shelf at Target, so I bought it and it’s quite good. I think they had a cranberry flavor too.

    I am tickled by the story on the box, which boils down to “The Finnish government decided it was taking too long to make people their drinks so they invented The Long Drink.” It does mention the Olympics but it’s so much funnier if you leave that out.

    Thanks for the history and the recipes – four years later it seems like this drink is practically mainstream and you can discover it by accident at a major retailer like I did.

  5. It’s rather incredible, to me, the journey it’s made in these past few years. From a fun “thing to try while in Finland,” to being available nearly everywhere. The most surreal to me was when watching the NHL winter classic, to see an ad for the long drink on the end boards. It’s not a “true” long drink with gin, but it is a malt beverage that replicates the flavor.

  6. Thanks for reaching out, though this article is specifically about the original Finnish long drink, not the newer version produced in the United States. It also was written after my trip to Finland and tells the story of the original.

    Hope that was clear in the text. I’m fairly sure the text tells the story of the original fairly accurately and doesn’t misrepresent the difference between the two.