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The Finns and the alcohol, this is a never-ending story full of curious, sometimes embarrassing and often just funny moments. There is hardly another European people who is said to drink a bit over the limits. At the same time, this picture only partially reproduces reality. There are many Finns who completely abstain from alcohol. In this article, however, everything revolves around the Finnish drinking culture and, besides some interesting facts, I would like to introduce you to the most important cult drinks from Suomi.
It was not so long ago that one of the social networks encountered a certain Finnish term: kalsarikännit. Getting drunk in underpants at home alone. Do the Finns really do that? Whenever I get this question I have to smile first. How gladly mankind believes in such myths. You can also just as well have a cold drink or two dressed in your swim suit. But seriously: I have never met a Finn who gets drunk at home in underpants. But wait, there was still a word. Exactly, they do it "alone".
Quite similarly to the other Nordic countries, strict alcohol legislation is a tradition in Finland too. The taxation is fierce and high percentages you get only in the state Alko shops. In recent years, the laws have been relaxed at least so far that you can now buy beer and Lonkero in the supermarket. But more about this ominous Lonkero later.
The strict laws and high taxes in any case meant that many Finns turned to black markets. Secretly, some spirits were produced and consumed in the Finnish forests. Pontikka in Finland is the name given to this illegal brandy, which usually stands out more by percentage than by excellent taste.
Another example of the strict regulation of drinking in Finland: Even at the football stadium, you can only enjoy your beer in certain designated areas ("anniskelualue"). The regulations are intended to protect the people from unchecked alcohol consumption. Certainly, a commendable intention from the point of view of health care, but whether it really manages to permanently patronize adult humans? The answer is, as you might have guessed: no. At least it works rather conditionally to prevent alcohol excesses completely.
On certain occasions, almost the whole Finland is smashed which means that, in many places, more than one person is drinking not only because they are thirsty. These include Vappu (Finnish 1st May), Juhannus (Midsummer Night) and winning the Ice Hockey World Championship, which is now almost once a decade.
"Torilla tavataan" ("We meet in the market square") is the Finnish cult saying for all occasions where there is really something big to celebrate. And then it can be a bit more excessive. In a leisurely setting, you can enjoy a few good drinks on a summer evening, but also on the "terassi", the Finnish form of the beer garden, or of course on your own “mökki” right on the lake. Here at least no one dictates in which area the drink may be consumed. In this sense "kippis"! By the way, that means "cheers".
Something typically Finnish is the “sahti”. This oldest surviving beer has existed for more than 1,000 years. It is heavily mashed and purified over juniper branches. Partly it is used instead of hops or in addition to juniper as an ingredient. In addition, robust yeast and the whole thing is fermented fast and strong. The alcohol content of the Sahti is about eight to ten percent. To this day, the small brewery Lammin Sahti holds the flag of this cult drink with success.
But let's jump from the effervescent specialties first to another Finnish cult drink, which today nobody passes. Naturally, we talk here about “lonkero”. This drink is actually called "OriGINal Longdrink" and made by Hartwall - now there are also some imitators. It is a sparkling, extremely drinkable mix of gin and grapefruit. Nowadays there are also many more flavors.
The history of the Lonkero is interesting, because this drink was invented on the occasion of the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki in order to be able to pamper the crowd pouring into the city as quickly as possible with a delicious mixed drink - that was ready mixed and therefore helped to save waiting times in the bars.
Back to the beer. The Finnish breweries were not necessarily known for their thirst for innovation over many years. So, there were few big brands in the country, which were mostly lager beer. The best known is certainly the legendary Lapin Kulta, which you can get as well as, alone because of the bear on the can, the iconic Karhu - in the Little Finland shop and online shop. In the recent past, the established names have been joined by numerous small and micro-breweries throughout the country, which have noticeably enriched the scene. You can find varieties such as wheat, light or dark. And not bad at all!
Last but not the least, let's have a look at the slightly higher percentage of alcohol from Suomi. Although there is no wine from grapes here but some really tasty berry wines. Corresponding wineries can be found, for example, near Tampere (Teiskon Viini), in Ilomantsi (Hermannin Viinitila) or Vuokatti (Vuokatin Viini). At this point, the Finnish “glögi” should not go unmentioned, which has already enriched many a Christmas market in this country.
When it comes to vodka from Finland, quickly fall two names: Finlandia Vodka and Koskenkorva. Another real hit here in the Little Finland's online shop is, for example, the Finlandia Vodka Nordic Berries with the natural aroma of cloudberries, blueberries and cranberries. From Koskenkorva, the liquors Salmiakki and Valhalla are among the absolute bestsellers. Or would you dare to buy a tar schnapps? Be careful with the dangerously tasty peppermint liqueur Minttu!
Did I forget something? Yes! Of course, the Finnish gin deserves a mention here too. One of the undisputed flagships is the Kyrö Napue Gin, award-winning and distilled from Finnish rye. In 2015, it was named "World's Best Gin for Gin & Tonic" in the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC). In addition to the Napue Gin, further juniper distillates from Finland, such as the Arctic Blue Gin, are starting to conquer the world.
Win a Finnish drink of your choice (a bottle or 4 cans) from our shop assortment with Little Finland! You can participate via the Little Finland Facebook page or Instagram page. Just tell us what your personal Nordic favorite drink is and which beverage from our assortment you would like to win. Participation in the raffle is possible until Sunday 16.06.2019. The lucky winner will be personally notified.
Text & photos: René Schwarz
About the author:
René Schwarz grew up half Finn and bilingual. The self-employed copywriter and author regularly travels to his second home country and loves to share his passion for Suomi with others. He has been doing so since the beginning of 2016 on his blog FinnTouch, where you can expect numerous travel tips from Finland, interviews with Finnish artists and personal stories. Have a look at www.finntouch.de!
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Prices are tax included