Cracking Open Finland’s Long Drink

The legendary gin-based beverage enters the US in a can

It’s OK to be afraid (or suspicious) of cocktails in cans. For the most part, these drinks agitate rather than inspire a night of fun, but the Long Drink isn’t a canned cocktail. This category of alcoholic beverage—the long drink—was invented by the Finns in 1952 to meet the needs of the massive tourist influx for the Summer Olympic Games in Helsinki. Post-WWII, they sought to deliver something joyful, unforgettable and easy to serve and in Finland long drinks remain undeniably popular today, consumed during all seasons. Now, three Finns and an American have created The Long Drink Company, canned the mixed drink at 5.5% and distributed it across the US. Their floral product—super-clean and crisp on the finish—tastes delightful and pairs with just about everything.

The long drink category incorporates many different producers in Finland, not just one brand. As Long Drink co-founder Mikael Taipale shares, regarding their recipe, “The plan was always to bring the traditional-style long drink from Finland to America, so we definitely looked to ones we all loved back home.” He continues, “Locking down the details of the final recipe did take us through some iterations, which meant extensive tastings of different versions. We used our friends as an expert panel to do blind tastings with different iterations of our recipe and existing ones, and finally got to a point where ours was almost always picked as the best tasting.”

For their Long Drink, Taipale and partners produce and bottle in the US rather than Finland. “There are two reasons for this,” he says. “First off, the economics of producing in Finland and importing here would not have allowed us to sell the product at a reasonable price where we could make it a mass-market product like we want to. Secondly, we are a US-based company and our goal has always been to establish this new long drink category in the US.” Even though this is an American-made product, they do hope to underscore the brand’s “strong Finnish roots.”

Finland was even ranked the happiest country in the world twice in a row recently, and maybe the long drink has something to do with all that!

As one may expect, challenges clustered up early on. “The very first were production and regulation,” Taipale says. “Long Drink is a distilled spirit-based product in a can, which back when we were starting was not that common in the market so figuring out production and related regulation was not that simple. For example, packaging sizes of spirit-based products are strictly regulated, and we can’t put the Long Drink on tap even though back home that is very common at bars. The second major challenge was obviously to get the initial distribution and support behind the product. This meant that in the beginning it was very much boots on the ground to get people to try the product and believe in it.” They did gain traction early on and in key markets.

Taipale says, “Long Drink is not a canned cocktail. It’s not similar to any existing cocktail, and it’s not something you would even try to make yourself—it’s a type of drink of its own, like Coca-Cola for example.”

It’s one of those few traditional Finnish things that us Finns feel very proud telling people from other cultures about

He looks back to the 1952 Olympics as a “sort of a turning point for our small and at the time poor country, being its first time on the world stage. Since then, the nation has seen remarkable growth, developing into a country with a world-class education system, technology and industry. Finland was even ranked the happiest country in the world twice in a row recently, and maybe the long drink has something to do with all that! It’s one of those few traditional Finnish things that us Finns feel very proud telling people from other cultures about.”

“The goal is to continue rapid expansion of Long Drink to new states and introduce it to as many Americans as possible,” Taipale says. “It’s interesting because right now there is suddenly a huge boom of spiked seltzers and canned cocktails in the market, and most of these only offer a cheap and easy buzz from malt liquor and seltzer, or just the convenience of a portable cocktail with not much tradition or loyalty. We want people to hear the rich history and try the delicious taste of the Long Drink—and we are already seeing that once they do, they become almost as loyal to it as us Finns are.” Our first experience, and all those that have followed, reflect with Taipale’s statement.

The Long Drink provides a store locator and web shop, where a six pack of 12 oz cans retails for $16.

Images courtesy of the Long Drink