Mexico has the margarita. Brazil, the caipirinha. Seek pisco sours in Peru. But Finland? There, it’s all about “Long Drink,” a refreshing and lightly carbonated ready-to-drink combination of gin, grapefruit soda, and juniper. It’s an undeniably Finnish classic. And the Long Drink is ready for its Dallas debut.
In a time when canned cocktails like White Claw are seemingly glued to every millennial’s hand and more low-calorie hard seltzers are popping up all the time, Long Drink seems to stand out from the crowd.
“We’re not really trying to compete with White Claw and other canned cocktails. We’re our own category,” says Ere Partanen, who along with co-founder Mikael Taipale recently moved to Dallas to launch the product here in January. The founders, and most Finns, don’t even consider Long Drink a cocktail.
“Finland doesn’t have a cocktail culture like you see in the U.S. or U.K.,” says Partanen. “For us, a gin and tonic is a complicated drink.” But put gin in a can, mix it with grapefruit soda and sell it as a ready-to-drink option, and that’s something the entire country can get behind.
The first Long Drink was produced by the Finnish government as a way to quickly serve the masses during the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. It was such a hit among locals that it stayed on the market and has remained the nation’s most popular alcoholic beverage ever since.
“There would be nothing unique about this back home. There are many Long Drinks in Finland,” says Partanen, who compares the minute differences between options to light beer mainstays like Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite. “If you’re an expert, you might know the difference, but they’re all basically the same ingredients.” He adds that the ratios of those ingredients may vary somewhat among producers, but most Long Drinks are sold at 5.5 percent alcohol-by-volume.
For decades, the Finnish government controlled Long Drink production, but the reins were eventually loosened in 1995. Today tons of brands proliferate throughout the country, where the Long Drink is available in cans, bottles, and on draft. It’s a popular call at bars and the beverage of choice when gathering with friends. “Everyone drinks it,” says Partanen. “My parents and grandparents drink it, my friends drink it, it’s everywhere.” And that includes the U.S.
Long Drink first launched in New York in 2018 before expanding to a few additional states—New Jersey, Massachusetts, Nevada. Upon coming to Dallas in early January, the product quickly found shelf space at Spec’s and Total Wine. It’s also available in a handful of bars, like High Fives, Hideaway on Henderson, and Network Bar.
But finding an audience for the newly arrived Nordic libation takes work. “We’re still figuring out the best way to explain it,” says Partanen, “so having people taste it is key.” Securing a celebrity spokesperson doesn’t hurt, either. (Actor Miles Teller is a part owner.)
The company is currently selling four variations ($14 for a six-pack). Along with the original, there’s a cranberry-spiked option, a zero-sugar option, and Long Drink Black, which delivers a boozier iteration.
Can the Long Drink carve out its booze-niche here in Dallas? There’s only one so-called national beverage of Finland. And the Long Drink is in it for the long game.