Lonkero: the Finnish long drinks invented for the 1952 Olympics

colour photograph of the entrance to a stadium with the Olympic rings and flags flying

Sporting events are times for celebrations or commiseration, often marked with food and drink.

But in Finland, we find an example of a drink that was invented for a sporting ocasion – the 1952 Olympic Games held in Helsinki.

Lonkero is a Finnish term given to what are known as ‘long drinks’ – usually drinks mixing spirits such as vodka and gin with fruit-flavoured soft drinks.
In Finland, these popular drinks are sold in supermarkets, bars and restaurants. Gin and grapefruit soda is one of the most popular mixtures, but cranberry, lime and more flavours are available.

These drinks were invented for the summer Olympic Games which were hosted by Helsinki from 19 July to 3 August 1952 – 12 years after the cancellation of the 1940 Olympic Games which were due to be held in Helsinki.

EXPLORE MORE: The story of Hungary’s Golden Team who won the Olympic football gold in 1952

At the time, Finland had strict controls on the sale of alcohol.

Between 1919 and 1932, prohibition banned the sale of alcohol. This law was brought in as one of the first acts of the Finland as a republic following its independence from Russia. The law was overturned in 1932 following a referendum where 70% of voters chose to remove the restrictions.

Following this, a state-company called Alko was created to control the sale of alcoholic products.

However, with thousands of foreign competitors, media and sports fans coming to Helsinki for the Olympics, the Finnish state loosened the laws.

Alko introduced two pre-mixed, bottled, ready-to-consume long drinks – one with brandy and a fruit / berry soft drink flavour (which has since been discontinued) and the gin and grapefruit drink which continues to be popular today.

Both drinks were easy for bars to sell, as they were pre-mixed and they were developed to appeal to the tastes of foreign visitors.

One of the most popular brands sold today is by Hartwall, a beverage company based in Helsinki that was founded in 1836.

Explore more blogs, galleries and collections about sporting heritage on Europeana

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

This blog is part of the Europeana Sport project which showcases cultural treasures relating to sporting heritage in Europe.

Feature image: Helsinki Olympics 1952, Käpylä race village gate on Koskelantie, Olympia-kuva Oy, Helsinki City Museum, CC BY

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