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Tuukka Rask brings the national drink of Finland to the United States

The Bruins goaltender recently became co-owner of The Long Drink. Known as ‘lonkero’ in his native Finland, the gin and citrus quasi-cocktail was developed when the country hosted the 1952 Summer Olympics.

Tuukka Rask is best known in Boston for his smooth skills on the ice. In October 2019, the soft-spoken goaltender celebrated his 500th NHL game, more than any other Bruin that’s played the position. Now he’s offering up a new sort of chill — in beverage form. The Stanley Cup champion recently became co-owner of The Long Drink. Known as “lonkero” in his native Finland, the gin and citrus quasi-cocktail is a category unto itself. It was developed when the country hosted the 1952 Summer Olympics, subsequently cementing its status as the national drink. Virtually an unknown commodity here, Rask is eager to share the drink with the States. In an exclusive interview with the Globe he verifies the age-old adage: You can take the goaltender out of Finland, but you can’t take the Fin out of the goalie.

Back home in Finland, what role did ‘lonkero’ play in your life?


You read about the history and what’s behind it, growing up. But I got to know it when I was 18 — that’s the drinking age there. When you go out with your friends, it’s a very social type of drink and it’s pretty much in every bar in the country. It’s become a staple. They have a lot of ciders and different kinds of flavors. But this long drink, there’s only one company that makes it over there, the original. And the history behind is tens of years long, so it’s a very social drink. It’s very smooth to drink.

Do you have any specific memories from when you were first exposed to it?

I was at some summer party with the friends, and we were hanging out by the water, listening to music. That’s kind of typical . . . Finnish summer nights, the day never ends, so you’re just hanging with your buddies having a long drink. That was my first experience.


Tuukka Rask's Long Drink.Caity MacMillan

What would you compare it to here, in terms of its significance?

It’s kind of like Bud Light, Coors Light, one of those beers — you pick one. But it’s truly Finnish. it’s just one of those things that everybody knows. You see it everywhere.

Is beer popular in Finland?

Not light beer. But beer in general. If you were going to have a light beer, you’d absolutely have long drink instead. Summertime, especially, when you’re out with your buddies playing golf, out on a boat, wherever, you want something refreshing — it’s Long Drink. You drink it over a cup of ice. That’s the go-to way to drink it in Finland.

Why do you suppose it took so long to get to the United States?

This new generation of drinkers are very aware of what’s going on in the world and they know what’s going on with different countries’ drinking cultures. They’re willing to make that journey and take that risk to experience something new. It takes a few people to say, hey, ‘Why not?’

Is it something that you’ve craved while here in Boston?

I’ve been living here over 10 years now; every year I talk with my buddies and we’d say, ‘We need to get this over here, people love it.’ Everybody who comes from the States to Finland and tried it, they think it’s awesome. And now people finally get a taste of Finland.


What makes it distinctly Finnish?

The history and what it was made for, the Olympics. Also, the color is like this cold, gray color that reminds you of Finnish winters [laughs]. But then again the taste is very refreshing so it gives you a taste of summer in Finland, which is sunny and beautiful — no night for a couple of months. So those both sides, I think, make it very Finnish.

Is it a popular thing to bring to the sauna?

Oh, 100 percent. That should be our next agenda is to bring the sauna culture to the United States.

What are the biggest differences in drinking culture between the Fins and Americans?

You know what, living in Boston I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference. People tend to have a beer or two here, as far as I’ve noticed. Here it’s also more of a social event; you go out and have a couple of cocktails. In Finland it’s not as socially acceptable to go out and [do that].

How would you compare Helsinki (the Finnish capital) and Boston?

They’re both very compact cities. Coming here, it was easy; it felt like a very European city. They’re easy to walk from place A to place B, and it won’t take you forever or you don’t have to drive a car. The water element adds to it, too. It’s close by and you go to a restaurant and sit by the water somewhere. Helsinki is a bit smaller, though, and the traffic isn’t as bad.


What are some of your favorite bars and restaurants around town?

I don’t go downtown anymore, so I don’t even know what’s there. I go to my place here in Newton, Buff’s Pub — known for its wings. That’s my local spot. And Monica’s Trattoria in North End, I’ve known those brothers for 10 years now. Those are my two [favorites].

Helsinki claims to have the most karaoke bars per capita in the world. Why is your homeland so into karaoke?

To my knowledge there were a few guys who brought it over about 30 years ago and it just took off. Finnish people are very closed, in a way. They won’t approach you or start talking to you when they’re sober. But when they get drunk they open up and they’re the best storytellers in the world. And karaoke just goes with that. I miss those bars, they’re kind of fun.

So karaoke and long drink go hand-in-hand in Finland?

Absolutely. I think people go out to a bar and then the clock hits 2 a.m. and they have the great idea to go sing for the last couple of hours of the night.

Do you have a go-to song?

I don’t [laughs]. My singing skills are not the best in the world. Although we did a Secret Santa on the team this year and [teammate Joakim] Nordström got me a karaoke machine. We’ve used that a couple of times at home, it’s great.


On behalf of Boston sports fans everywhere, please don’t quit your day job.

No, no I definitely won’t.

Brad Japhe can be reached at