A Guide to Finland's Love of Vodka

Bottles of Finnish vodka
Bottles of Finnish vodka | © Vicente Villamón/Flickr
Jessica Wood

Russia is often regarded as the global king of vodka, but its neighbouring Finland is a close competitor, with some equally well-established brands and a national love for the drink. Finnish vodka is known for being particularly strong, with close to 40% alcohol volume in some brands. Here’s a guide on where to find and how to drink Finland’s favourite alcohol.

Finland’s vodka culture

Consuming vodka in Finland works pretty much the same as with any other kind of drink: getting as drunk as possible in the shortest amount of time. This is likely because in Finland alcohol is expensive and sales are strongly regulated, so Finns want to get the most for their money. This has lead to the false negative stereotyping of Finns, even though most restrict their heavy drinking to weekends and holidays, and the national average for alcohol consumption is about the same as the rest of Europe.

Even so, typical Finnish vodka can be a little too intense for some, due to its particularly strong alcoholic content. Others may be put off by the amount they are expected to consume on an average night out. If you aren’t a heavy drinker, or can’t handle strong beverages well, it is best to drink vodka in moderation, or only enjoy it at home, as fines for drink driving or disorderly behaviour are high in Finland.

Popular drinks

Vodka in Finland is typically consumed in a single straight shot. Flavours, such as mint or lime, are popular both in Finland and abroad. There is even tar-flavoured vodka, which many Finns love but foreigners hate. Finlandia is the most famous brand and comes in flavours ranging from mango to cranberry. Finnish brands tend to vary in how sweet or dry they are, so the type of vodka you drink will likely come down to personal preference.

There is also a wide range of cocktails which can be made with Finnish vodka. Drinks Mixer suggests the Arctic Circle, a mixture of Finlandia vodka, lime juice, and ginger ale. For a truly Finnish taste, try the Salmari cocktail, which mixes vodka with Tyrkist Peber salty licorice.

Cocktails made with vodka are popular in Finnish bars

Where to find vodka

The only shops in Finland which can legally sell vodka are the government-run Alko stores, where you can find an average-sized bottle of vodka for less than €10, or a specialist bottle for around €20. Besides this, most bars sell vodka and cocktails, and it is likely that you will be served a drink when visiting someone’s house. Having a drink after a trip to the sauna (and sometimes even in the sauna) is also common. It is customary, and practically expected, to have a pre-party drink, or etkot, at home before heading out to a bar.

Various spirits for sale at Alko

Finnish vodka and drinking culture are not for lightweights and proper care should be taken to avoid hefty fines. But, for those who do like strong vodka or unique cocktails, Finnish vodka is some of the best in the world.

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