A Long Drink After a Long Week and—For Some—After a Long, Dry January
After a week of talking about the "crisis" in the wine business, maybe what we need is a ready-to-drink cocktail in a can.
For those of you who just completed Dry January, congratulations. Sincerely. For whatever personal reason you chose to embark on that journey, I commend you. If your monthlong break from booze has inspired you to reconsider your relationship with alcoholic beverages, I deeply respect your choices. If you’ve decided to drink less this year, or to give up drinking entirely, I support you. And in either case, I recommend Julia Bainbridge’s excellent newsletter, Good Drinks, for a deeper dive into the burgeoning category of non-alcoholic drinks.
For the rest of you, it’s February now. Welcome back.
I gotta admit, sometimes I get to Friday and I am totally strung out. I absolutely love what I do, but it is not always a picnic to be living through a media apocalypse and self-publishing a newsletter. Sometimes when I get to Friday, I’m frankly tired of wine, exhausted by spirits, and fatigued by the discourse on both. This week, for instance, we saw a great deal of chatter about the wine industry’s supposedly grim future—basically because the younger generation won’t buy the garbage, low-end “starter” wines the industry lazily would like them to buy.
I weighed in on this (again) on Tuesday.
When I get to a Friday like this, what I want is something easy, uncomplicated, and does not require any glassware. Sometimes that thing still maintains a slight bougieness, maybe a Saison Dupont or a Anxo Cider. But plenty of times that thing is Miller High Life (“The Champagne of Bottled Beer”).
Or, if it’s been a really long week, I turn to one of life’s finest uncomplicated pleasures in a can: The Finnish Long Drink. Gin, “natural grapefruit and juniper flavors,” and carbonation. Since one of my favorite cocktails is the Salty Dog, Long Drink seems a perfect fit for me.
Now, I’ve never been a fan of the ready-to-drink (RTD) category, the three-ring circus of the booze world. Those are the shelves where you find stuff like Smirnoff Ice, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, High Noon, and the various ranch waters. You know the aisle (it’s next to the hard seltzer shelves where you find your White Claw). In recent years, especially during the pandemic, the category exploded and several craft brands emerged. A favorite of mine is Cutwater Spirits, based in San Diego, who make excellent canned tequila cocktails (their canned classic margarita is really good).
In a great piece this week, Dave Infante, in his drinks industry newsletter Fingers, suggests that wine-based RTDs—such as the popular BeatBox and BuzzBallz—may be the way to save the wine industry. This is essentially the polar opposite of the argument I made on Tuesday—which, to recap, was that the wine industry could simply try making better wine for a more reasonable price. But, honestly, now that it’s Friday…who am I to say? Maybe Infante is right.
If it does come to pass that RTDs truly take over the world of drinks, at least I know what team I’m on. And that would be Team Long Drink.
Now, this is the part of the typical drinks article where I would normally tell you the quirky back story to Long Drink. And surely, Long Drink has a back story. In this case, the story takes place in Finland. (So bonus points for me, lover of anything Nordic.) The story is literally on the can:
“The roots of long drinks go back to the 1952 Summer Games in Finland, when the country of only 4 million people was still recovering from World War II. Concerned with how to serve drinks quickly enough to all the visitors, the government commissioned the creation of a revolutionary new liquor drink, and so the first long drinks were born.”
I can verify that you will find variations of the long drink (or lonkero in Finnish) all over Finland, and so the story checks out. My son also reminded me that the actor (and Philadelphia sports fan) Miles Teller is an investor in Long Drink, as is the golfer Rickie Fowler and DJ Kygo. So there’s that odd celebrity trifecta involved, too, if that matters.
All that matters for me is that I really enjoy Long Drink for very uncomplicated reasons. It’s the sort of thing I drink while watching Emily in Paris. For me, Long Drink is the comfort food of drinks.
In fact, I’ve found that one of the most sublime comfort pairings imaginable is Long Drink and a grilled cheese sandwich with kimchi. If you’ve never had kimchi grilled cheese, then you are missing out on another of life’s great pleasures. I recently wrote about kimchi grilled cheese, in fact, for Taste of Home:
I can divide my life into two eras. The time before I knew about kimchi grilled cheese, and the time after I learned about kimchi grilled cheese. The sandwich has gone viral a number of times over the past couple of years, led by Korean food influencer @maangchitime on TikTok.
Look, I still love a basic grilled cheese—possibly with tomato soup on the side—as much as the next guy. But adding kimchi to your grilled cheese takes you into a whole new universe.
And so, if all the doomsayers about the wine industry are correct, and a wine apocalypse is truly in our future—if this vision of our drinking future as a chaotic world of RTD canned craziness does come to pass—I will be quietly over here. And I will be enjoying my Long Drink and kimchi grilled cheese.