Drink Like a Finn: Finnish Drinks You Should Try At Least Once

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Want to drink like a Finn? Here’s how:

During my four trips to Finland, I try to be as Finnish as possible.  I’ve dog sledding in Iso-SyöteI’ve driven my own snowmobile, have driven with a Finnish rally car driver. Heck, I’ve ice fishing and ate reindeer meat in Oulu, Finland! And one of my biggest challenges, I’ve cycled 1250 km across Finland.

finnish drinks lonkero salmiakki
Lonkero, my favorite Finnish drink on the left and Salmiakki which tastes like salty black licorice on the right.

So naturally, my research wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t also drink like a Finn and sample a few Finnish drinks. I’m a complete lightweight who rarely indulges in more than a glass or two of wine but I was up to the challenge:

First up was Lonkero, a nice orientation into Finnish drinks.

“Lonkero” is a type of premixed ready to drink an alcoholic beverage.  In this case, it tasted like lemonade.  I really liked it.  It was sweet.

I could imagine drinking it on a hot sunny day – yes Finland does have hot sunny days which are perfect for canoeing or bird watching.

My orientation to Finnish drinks complete, next up was Salmiakki, a dark drink that you drink as a shot.

I was excited to hear that it tasted like black licorice since I’m a fan of sambuca.  Salmiakki is an acquired taste though. While it does taste like black licorice, it was way stronger and saltier than any sambuca I’ve ever had.

I struggled to do the entire shot as it was so strong, but I liked the essence of it.

finnish drinks terva snapsi
Terva Snapsi is a popular Finnish drink, but it was my least favorite – maybe it was the pine tar that didn’t do it for me.

Next up was Terva Snapsi, a liquor made with pine tar – (yes pine tar!) that has a smokey flavor.

This was my least favorite, but judging by the number of different occasions it was offered to us, I’m guessing it’s a popular Finnish drink.

Research complete it was now time for the next dose of Finnish culture – a karaoke bar!

All those Finnish drinks give many Finns the liquid courage to become performers, and karaoke bars are thriving in Finland.  I decided my research was done for the night – no amount of liquid courage was going to persuade me to get up and sing.

Have you ever drank like a Finn?  I would love to hear your recommendations for other Finnish drinks.

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18 thoughts on “Drink Like a Finn: Finnish Drinks You Should Try At Least Once”

  1. This is inspiring! I love the local “rot gut” wherever I go…and soon I hope to be eating my way through Finland. I’ll definitely reference this post as my liquid bible.

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  2. I very very rarely drink (like once a year??) so I would be the wrong person to taste anything like that! Drinks are a part of culture though, and sometimes I wish I had developed the taste for it.

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  3. I usually don’t like drinking… I’m so uncool I know 🙂 Any time I go for a drink I usually have a coke or juice. My girlfriend really like drinking and we travel together..so she will try the drink you suggested!

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  4. Ha! I got a great story on the Finns and their drinking. When I first went to Estonia many years ago, they called Finns the 4 legged dogs (or deer – wasn’t sure which translation was correct) because they were the ones drunk and crawling around on all fours! 🙂

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  5. We had a similar experience on a winter sports trip in Oulanka National Park. We tried the Jellona brand tar and anise schnapps. While the tar tasted somewhat better than it smelled, it’s still an acquired taste. The anise was pretty good, though my favorite liquorice was the Salmiakki kind.

    Our favorite were the Lapponia schnapps – the cloudberry was so good, and they had a couple other flavors of berry fruits. A little sweeter and thicker than the schnapps here in Germany, and a nice change. We brought a bottle of that back with us!

    The other Finnish drink we learned about was cut brandy. Our guide said that in wartime, brandy was in short supply so Finns would cut it with vodka.

    The brand we had available was Jaloviina. The bottle has 1-3 stars on the label. One star indicates one part brandy to two parts vodka (1/3). Three stars means three parts brandy to one part vodka (3/4, a higher quality). We tried a one star variety and it was not bad. The mix is strange at first, but it works.

    Thanks for sharing – i’ve enjoyed your finland pics, both as a reminder of a wonderful trip we had, and of a chance to see some of what Finland offers that we missed.

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  6. They obviously kept the best shot/ drink from you: Minttu/ Minttu Cacao! Its a strong liqueur, but doesn’t taste at all strong. And Minttu Cacao is perfect drink after a cold day outdoors, I take mine as a night cap when out backpacking in winter!

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  7. HI Laurel, Yes, I have drank like a Finn! I lived in Helsinki for 11 months a long time ago on a student exchange and had my share of Finlandia – my favourite drink was always with the cloudberries!!

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  8. i lived in Finland for 5 years and nowhere can they drink like the Finns only thing is i can’t seem to find Piirttu basically hospital grade alcohol, tastes awful but cleans you out completely and proper gets you blotto

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    • I agree, Smoke is good, it provides warmth, light, and a break from eating raw fish. It’s taste and smell are naturally stimulating. Those that enjoy smoked salmon, bacon, and Islay whiskies will – at a minium – find amusement in the terva or “tar” schnapps. It’s worth an airplane ticket to Helsinki.

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  9. So we just spent some time in Helsinki and tried a traditional beer called ‘Sahti’ which was recommended drinking by our local friends/guides. Tasted kind of like bananas… Great to try, but probably won’t try again!

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  10. I like Terva very much. Your mouth is filled with a very present odor and taste of tar. Whether you like it, or you hate it. There‘s probably not much in between.

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