Finland may be located more than 5,000 miles from the Sunshine State, but one of the country's most popular alcoholic drinks makes for a pleasant summertime alternative to the now-ubiquitous Florida seltzer.
Known as lonkero, or more commonly in the U.S. as a "long drink," the alcoholic beverage was invented to be served to attendees of the 1952 Olympics held in Helsinki. Made with gin and a variety of fruit flavors like grapefruit (the most traditional), cranberry and lime, the carbonated canned drink has only recently become easy to find outside of Finland.
In 2018, a group of friends launched The Finnish Long Drink in New York City. Just last year, the company expanded across Florida, offering four distinct types: "Traditional Citrus," a 5.5 percent alcohol mix made with gin, grapefruit juice and juniper berries; "Strong Citrus," an 8.5 percent alcohol blend of those same flavors; cranberry, at 5.5 percent alcohol; and "Zero Sugar," a 5 percent alcohol version made without carbs or sugar. Locally, you can find the cans at ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, Total Wine & More, Walmart, Target and some independent shops.
They're tasty. The use of gin makes them more herbal and floral than a hard seltzer, qualities that show up best in the "Traditional Citrus" flavor. While created in a climate very different than Sarasota's, the Long Drink still fits in perfectly in the land of pool parties and floaties.
Since Long Drink launched, Miles Teller, the star of Whiplash, Fantastic Four and the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick, has become a co-owner of the company. Teller grew up in Florida, and recently answered a few questions about why he became involved with bringing Long Drink to Americans.
When did you first try a Long Drink?
"At a tasting on the Lower East Side in Manhattan."
What did you like about it?
"I fell in love with the taste immediately. I think it’s the perfect combination of taste and 'the quench.' The buzz is great, too, which is what I think keeps people wanting more."
How is it different from a hard seltzer?
"Personally, I’m not a fan of the hard seltzer movement. I find the taste to be a bit watered down and when I do have one, it's a one-and-done. I get bored with them. Long Drink uses premium liquor and gin, and incorporates it into a very drinkable, refreshing beverage. Also, having not really been a gin drinker before, I find the buzz to be very appealing. It's an upper for me."
Do you have a favorite flavor?
"I enjoy all the flavors. There’s a Long Drink for every occasion."
You spent time in the Tampa Bay area while growing up—do you ever visit the area?
"I grew up about an hour north of Tampa in Citrus County. My parents still live there, and so I go back for holidays and special occasions. When I was in high school and college, we would go down to the Tampa Bay area all the time. We spent many a 21st birthday and New Year's at Channelside and down in South Tampa. I love Central Florida and it will always feel like home to me."