I recently went on a long weekend trip to Helsinki to visit my friend Jenni, whom I met in Cambodia back in January. All budget travelers know that alcohol can quickly eat up what little money you have for your trip. The pre-party is an absolute necessity in order to save money, but still have fun abroad. This is especially true in Western Europe where the cost of alcohol can be exceptionally high. The first thing Jenni insisted I try upon arrival to her apartment was Lonkero or long drink.
I expressed some concern at the “Grape” part on the can because I find everything in America labeled “grape” to taste like nasty cough syrup. However, Jenni assured me it was more like grapefruit and indeed it was. Lonkero is actually a mix of grapefruit juice and gin. Found it to be pretty good for a premixed canned alcoholic beverage. I also tried the cranberry variety called Karpalo Lonkero; would recommend.
At Aussie Bar, Jenni insisted I try this shot:
I really didn’t want to, but when in Rome…it’s called Salmari and is a popular vodka/black licorice liqueur. The Nordics all love their black licorice, but I do not. I couldn’t even drink my Stella afterward because it just tasted like licorice. If you love that flavor, then definitely try it. If not, avoid like the plague!
Probably my favorite Finnish drink is Minttu:
As the name implies, this is a mint liqueur that looks like vodka but tastes exactly like a thin mint cookie! Just like thin mints, it’s best if it’s frozen. If you’re the type of person who thinks mint just tastes like toothpaste, then I wouldn’t recommend this for you. However, if you’re like me this is a delicious and deceptive drink! It’s 35%, but doesn’t taste like it has alcohol in it at all. Luckily, I only had one shot of it. I think it would be quite delicious in a hot chocolate as well. I purchased a bottle at tax-free at the airport to take with me.
Finns also love their beers/ciders. I tried a few ciders, but find that I don’t really like them that much. The beers I tried were perfectly ok, but international beers are quite easy to find at bars as well, so you can always go with one of your favorites if need be.
The Finish Drinking Culture
I must mention a few things about Finns themselves as well. In general, when you go to stores or talk to people out and about during the day, you will notice that the Finnish aren’t particularly friendly, smiley people. They can appear to be quite reserved and cold (a claim people say is true for Norwegians, but I generally disagree). However, Finland is one of the most depressed countries in the world and they drink…A LOT. This, however, makes them skip the friendly drunk phase and go straight to trashed.
One of the things Finns like to do is take the Viking Express ship from Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia simply to buy cheap alcohol (more on the boat in another entry). They load up carts with boxes and boxes of beer and cider. Here they are going nuts in the ship’s tax-free shop.
Inevitably this means that by the time everyone gets back from Tallinn (if they get back at all), the boat is brimming with drunken Finns who crowd the ship’s dance pavilion to do bad Karaoke in Finnish.