Helsinki may seem a bit far to travel for a quality cocktail, but with a little isolation comes much creativity. The cocktail scene here rivals most major cities around the world, but with an advantage: Nordic ingredients like pine, birch, cloudberry and even fish bones, which impart aromas of the sea. So if Finland’s on your summer itinerary, hit these spots for a seasonal drink.
Authentic + Fresh
Inside the Hotel Lilla Roberts, the elegant Lilla e. features aesthetically stunning drinks focused on Nordic ingredients and a zero-waste menu. The Vesillelasku, made with pine resin-infused Johnny Walker Black Label and Lagavulin 16-year-old single-malt Scotch, tells a story through its dry ice-diffused “sea smell” garnish (dried kombu, fish bones and pine needles). Easier to absorb may be Këvat, the Nordic Spring, made with ground-ivy-infused Absolut Elyx Vodka, St-Germain, white balsamic vinegar and a splash of natural sparkling water packed with minerals.
At A21 Decades, owner Timo Siitonen helped start Helsinki’s modern Nordic cocktail movement, and he continues to push it forward. Browse the Boilermaker and Gin & Tonic sections, but settle into a summer day with the Vehnäoras (Żubrówka Bison Grass Vodka, London dry gin, green Chartreuse, Jeju Hannam tea, wheatgrass, green botanicals, herbs and lemon). Or you can choose to soak up some city birch with the Koivu 3.0 (Cuban white rum, birch syrup, linden flower, common yarrow, lime and carbonated birch water).
One of Helsinki’s top chefs, Richard McCormick travels the globe in search of inspiration. So it makes sense that his bar, Holiday, which opened in 2016, feels like, well, a holiday. Hang out on the outdoor terrace that overlooks the harbor and sip drinks like Kale Champagne (Champagne, kale, cucumber and white wine vinegar) or the Helsinki Chili Mule (Finlandia Grapefruit Vodka, chili, ginger, lime and ginger beer).
Rusty Bar, just steps off Central Market on Katajanokka Island is the newest hotspot from the Son of a Punch crew, which also owns acclaimed bars Liberty or Death and Trillby & Chadwick Detective Agency. Its deep cocktail lineup is broken up into categories like “Strong & Herbal” and “Long & Fresh.” Try the vodka-based Vegugated, with Lillet, lime, basil, avocado oil and chickpea foam. Or maybe the smoky and strong It’s Always Sunny in Philly is more your jam. It commands your attention with Tequila, mezcal, pink grapefruit, lime, agave, salt and red pepper.