In a market where new ready-to-drink canned cocktails seem to pop up every 30 seconds or so, it’s relatively uncommon to see one featuring gin as its base. And if they do, it’s even rarer to see options outside of a standard G&T. But then there’s the Finnish Long Drink.
The 12-ounce beverage was inspired by the original Long Drink, a loose combination of gin, grapefruit soda or juice, and carbonated water that can be found on tap all over Finland.
The Finnish Long Drink was founded by four entrepreneurs and friends, and launched in the United States in 2018. It soon gained an impressive team of celebrity investors, and since then, the drink’s success has reached stratospheric heights, cementing it as one of the fastest-growing ready-to-drink cocktails on the market.
Now that you know the basics, here are seven more things you should know about the Finnish Long Drink.
The Finnish Long Drink was inspired by a beverage developed for the 1952 Olympic Games.
It’s not unusual for a drink to be developed intentionally to be served at sporting events. We have the Honey Deuce to sip on at the U.S. Open and Mint Juleps to imbibe every May come Derby Day. But the original Finnish Long Drink has become so ubiquitous in Finnish culture that it’s transcended the reason it was invented: to satisfy thirsty attendees of the 1952 Helsinki Summer Olympics. Concerned about having to serve an enormous number of people as quickly as possible, the Finnish government’s alcohol oversight branch, Alko, sanctioned the help of Hartwall, a Finnish beverage company, to produce an alcoholic drink in canned form to serve thirsty onlookers. Hartwall took inspiration from the national popularity of the simple-to-build Long Drink, which got its name from the highball or “long” glass it came served in. The gin-based beverage, along with a brandy-based version, made their debut at the 1952 summer games.
Despite the drink only being created for the games themselves, it was welcomed with such positive public reception that Hartwall debuted the product for commercial consumption. The Gin Long Drink and the Brandy Long Drink launched that same year, though production of the latter ceased in the 1970s.
When it was first introduced, the Finnish government owned the rights to the drink.
When Finnish prohibition came to a close in 1932, the country was only able to resume selling alcoholic beverages under the state-controlled alcohol monopoly called Alko — the same government sector that would commission the long drink for the 1952 games. That meant the drink’s ownership rights were owned by Alko and not Hartwall, the drink’s original producer. Every three years, the government body contracted out one beverage company at a time, allowing for a variety of Finnish producers to cash in on the drink’s success. It wasn’t until 1995 when Finland joined the E.U. and the Alko monopoly dissolved — along with its ownership rights — that multiple Finnish beverage corporations were able to put forth their own canned long drink. Hartwall then resumed the production of its Original Long Drink, and to this day, it remains one of the most popular alcoholic beverages on the market.
The beverage goes by a second name: Lonkero.
As “Finnish long drink” is a bit of a mouthful, many locals took to calling the beverage by a more colloquial name, lonkero. The casual term comes from the way “long drink” is pronounced in English, though the name also literally translates from Finnish to “tentacle.”
The Finnish Long Drink is the first brand to bring the long drink stateside.
The Finnish Long Drink was the first brand to bring Finland’s beloved national drink to American consumers. Its founders — American entrepreneur Evan Burns and Finnish entrepreneurs Ere Partanen, Sakari Manninen, and Mikael Taiple — met for the first time at a New York City happy hour event for startup founders and became fast friends. A short time later, Burns traveled to Finland to visit his three future business partners and was introduced to lonkero for the first time — which is served exclusively in cans and on tap — and immediately considered ways to expand the product’s presence outside the Nordic country. In 2018, the four friends soft-launched the Finnish Long Drink in New York City. While the drink is produced in Utica and now sold in 42 states and D.C, the recipe for the beverage was exclusively developed in Finland.
The celebrities attached to the brand discovered the Finnish Long Drink through each other.
A few weeks after the Finnish Long Drink launched, actor Miles Teller popped into a Manhattan store that was hosting a Long Drink tasting led by the brand’s founders. After tasting the sample and speaking with the team, he was so taken by the drink that he had orders shipped to his home on the West Coast, and remained in contact with the entrepreneurs. Less than one year after trying the beverage for the first time, Teller signed on as an official investor and co-owner of the company. When Teller and his now-wife Keleigh Sperry tied the knot in Hawaii in 2019, they served cans of the Finnish Long Drink at their wedding reception, where it was sampled by Grammy award-winning DJ Kygo. Following the wedding, Kygo sent a few cases off to close friend and pro golfer Rickie Fowler to try. In 2020, the musician and the golfer joined Teller in becoming official investors and co-owners.
The Finnish Long Drink was the fastest-growing spirits business of 2022.
While the brand says celebrity partnerships were never a part of its original business plan, they certainly seem to have paid off. In June 2023, the Finnish Long Drink became the fastest-growing spirits business in the world, according to the Spirits Business. The publication reports that from 2021 to 2022, the Finnish Long Drink more than doubled its case sales, jumping from 500,000 sold in 2021 to over 1.1 million sold in 2022. Despite the relative obscurity of the long drink category in the United States — and the fact that RTDs are rapidly becoming an incredibly oversaturated market — the brand experienced a 114.2 percent change, beating out behemoths like Malibu RTDs and High Noon to secure the top spot.
There are four expressions of the beverage available.
The Finnish Long Drink brand currently offers four versions of the beverage for American consumers. The Traditional expression delivers the classic citrus and gin profile of the true Finnish long drink and comes in at 5.5 percent ABV, though the brand also offers both a Strong version of the flavor, which contains 8.5 percent alcohol, and a Zero version canned at 5.5 percent ABV and containing zero carbs and zero grams of sugar. The Finnish Long Drink also comes in a Cranberry flavor, which is a popular substitute for citrus in Finland. Each offering is gluten-free and is sold in single-flavor 6-packs or 8-can variety packs.