You might have seen this ad with Kimi Räikkönen, promoting Long drink, a very Finnish product. More than being just an alternative to beer or cider, however, the long drink, or Lonkero, has a pretty cool story.
The story starts just after the end of the first world war. Finland then introduced a ban on alcohol, a measured that was maintained until 1932. Following the prohibition, even though alcohol became legal, it was tightly regulated by what is now Alko, the governmental agency in charge of most alcohol sales.
In 1952, bar owners in the Helsinki region were facing a dilemma. The summer Olympics of 1952 were hosted by the city, and a great number of thirsty foreigners were expected. As a result, the tight regulations on alcohol were likely to become a problem. In response to this situation, Alko introduced two pre-mixed drinks, manufactured by Hartwall. There were two flavors, Gin Long drink, which had a gin and grapefruit flavor, and Brandy Long drink with brandy and Pommac.
Since Hartwall also manufactured (and still does) the popular soft drink brand Jaffa, the production of Lonkero was simple. Long drinks were even initially bottled in soft drinks bottles.
Rise to fame
More than just being a hit with the tourist attracted by the Olympics, the Long drinks quickly became popular in Finland. Eventually, the brandy long drink was discontinued in the 1970s. The gin-based Lonkero, however, has remained a staple of Finnish drinking habits since then.
The original long drink was even the best-selling product in Alko in 2007 (it might still be, but I lack the sources to say so hehe).
The name of the drink comes from the proportions used in mixing the grapefruit soft drink and the gin. A short drink would refer to a smaller proportion of soft drink in relation to the quantity of alcohol. Since Lonkero is basically a pre-made cocktail, the name stuck.
It is even possible to mix yourself a long drink at home, using the right proportions.
Did you know that Alko mass-produced Molotov cocktails during the winter war against the USSR (1939-1940)? In total, Alko is estimated to have produced around 450,000 molotov cocktails for the Finnish military. I found this information while researching the long drink’s history, and I couldn’t stop from thinking it was too good not to include it.
Just to be clear, this is not an advertisement for Long drink.
Next time you drink a Lonkero, take a second to appreciate the history behind it.
Living in Finland for more than three years, Michel is a Canadian student who is now completing his master’s degree in ÅAU. His interests are quite diversified and include ice hockey, history, fishing, as well as many other things. He is also a member of the student ambassador network of South-West Finland.