Citrus soda and gin combine to make the Finnish Long Drink; an ultra-refreshing tipple with a fun history that is unbelievably easy to make and drink! The Lonkero -also the national cocktail of Finland- is about to become your new favourite summer beverage.
You may have seen cans showing up on the shelves at your liquor store near the other canned cocktails under the brands The Long Drink Company and Bevy Long Drink. I know they’re available in New York and much of the East Coast.
Today, I’m going to show you how to make your own traditional Finnish cocktail for a fraction of the price of the long drink brands using real liquor without sacrificing any of the thirst quenching deliciousness. Who’s thirsty?
There’s a little bit of irony to the name, because it certainly does not take long to make one. Even more funny is how very NOT long it takes me to sip one of these Long Drinks!
So what does a Long Drink taste like? If you’ve ever had a Fresca or Squirt, think of it as a fancy pants version of that blend of citrus flavors.
The fancy pants come courtesy of the juniper and herbal notes that gin brings to the party. While I love Squirt and Fresca (but not the sparkling water Fresca, please!) in my long drink, my heart belongs to the natural grapefruit based Q Beverages Sparkling Grapefruit soda.
It tastes like real grapefruit and maintains the refreshingly puckery character of grapefruit with just enough sweetness to keep you coming back for more. And more to the point, one can of Q Sparkling Grapefruit added to a double shot of gin produces the perfect size strong Finnish Long Drink to fill a pint jar.
I’m classy like that. If pint jars aren’t your thang, please feel free to substitute a fancier (read: proper) glassware tumbler like the gorgeous ones I used in these photos.
Now, I’m gonna give you a little history lesson because this drink has a great story! If you’re just here for the recipe, please feel free to click the handy-dandy “Jump to Recipe” button up at the top of this post or skip to the “Long Drink” heading where we talk about ingredients. But if you’re a history nerd like me, read on.
The Finnish Long Drink
At its simplest, the Finnish Long Drink or Lonkero is citrus soda with a gin base. While there are a lot of riffs on this theme, now, you can count on a tart, not-over-sweet gin laced beverage with about 5.5% ABV.
But more than just being the ultimate summer tipple, this hard citrus refresher has a weirder start than the average traditional cocktail. The roots of long drinks are in -believe it or not- government.
It dates back to 1952 when Finland hosted the Summer Olympic Games in Helsinki when Finland was still recovering economically from World War II. The government was a little concerned about whether they’d be able to serve the huge influx of Summer Olympics tourists, athletes, trainers, and more at their bars and keep everyone -ahem- hydrated and happy.
The Finnish government commissioned the creation of a new liquor drink that would be easy for bartenders to turn out in massive volumes quickly while being delicious enough to encourage repeat customers. The first Long Drinks were serve at those Summer Games and history was made.
…At least in Finland. It became the top selling category of alcohol in the country and Finland’s national cocktail.
The Finnish Long Drink remained largely unknown outside of Finland for almost 70 years, when some enterprising beverage companies took a chance on it being the next big thing (think hard seltzer) and started distributing it to larger U.S. market. The bet appears to have paid off and Finnish Long Drink is starting to get the attention it deserves.
You see, the government can hire someone to invent a million drinks, but unless it is utterly delicious and eminently drinkable, it wouldn’t become so popular in its country of origin that it is corners the cocktail market.
We’ve discussed which sodas will make your Long Drink delicious. To recap in order of preference: First we have Q Sparkling Grapefruit, followed by Squirt, and bringing up the rear, old-school Fresca, not to be confused with the Fresca Sparkling Water.
But we also need to talk about gin (and other optional add-ins) because it plays a huge role in the overall taste of your Finnish Long Drink. My gin of choice is always and forever Hendricks Gin. It is the king of all gins in my book, made with hints of roses and cucumbers along with 11 other botanicals, of course including wild juniper berries.
If the premium liquor kick of Hendricks is out of your budget or you like your gin a little less complicated, you can definitely sub in any gin you like in a gin and tonic. I’d recommend avoiding the cheap stuff and at least going for middle of the shelf level dry gin at the liquor store though.
Trust me though, there’s no nasty cheap liquor like cheap gin. It tastes like paint thinner and no amount of any other ingredient will ever completely cover it up its astringent qualities.
If you’re not super familiar with gin, please ask the kind purveyors of spirits at your local liquor store. Tell them you’d like a good-tasting dry gin that won’t break the bank, and I’m sure they’ll be happy to help you!
If you stumble upon an unusually taciturn clerk or are too shy to ask, some other decent but not insanely priced gins are Tanqueray, Seagram’s, Bombay Sapphire, and Beefeater. While Hendrick’s in my fave, you can’t really go wrong with any of those for a Long Drink.
While not strictly necessary, I do like to add just a splash each of lime juice and lemon juice to my Long Drinks, most especially when I’m using Squirt or Fresca. Q has enough citrus oomph to make it on its own, but the other sodas need the sunny boost that the little lemon/lime addition brings to the party.
If you’re looking to make a unique Finnish Long Drink that is a little more North American, feel free to add a splash of cranberry juice to pretty it up! While it isn’t traditional, it’s a delicious departure from the already wonderful lonkero.
And if there’s no such thing as too much grapefruit in your world, feel free to add a splash of fresh grapefruit juice as well! I like a little fresh grapefruit slice for garnish on my Finnish Long Drink, but the Q Sparkling Grapefruit hits just the right balance for me otherwise.
Finnish Long Drink
Fill a pint jar or tumbler with ice. Pour in 1.5 ounces of dry gin for a standard Long Drink or 3 ounces of gin for a Strong Long Drink.
Pour half of your chilled grapefruit soda over the gin along with the lemon juice, lime juice, grapefruit juice, or cranberry juice if using and give a couple of gentle stirs. Top off with the remaining grapefruit soda and serve immediately.
Finnish Long DrinkRate Recipe
- tumbler or pint jar
- 1.5 to 3 ounces dry gin
- 7 to 8 ounces grapefruit soda well chilled, preferably Q Sparkling Grapefruit, Squirt, or Fresca
Optional but tasty
- A splash of lemon juice, lime juice, cranberry juice, grapefruit juice, or any combination thereof.
- Fill a pint jar or tumbler with ice.
- Pour in 1.5 ounces of dry gin for a standard Long Drink or 3 ounces of gin for a Strong Long Drink.
- Pour half of your chilled grapefruit soda over the gin along with the lemon juice, lime juice, grapefruit juice, or cranberry juice if using and give a couple of gentle stirs. Top off with the remaining grapefruit soda and serve.
Nutritional information is an estimate and provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.