Foraged Mushrooms Star in this Finnish Cocktail
The drink: Mushroom cocktail
The bartender: Juha Konttinen, Hotelli Punkaharju, Punkaharju, Finland
Past stomping grounds: A range of hotels, bars and restaurants around Finland, from swank cocktail lounges to ski resorts in Lapland.
Current location: Hotelli Punkaharju, located in the Finnish countryside, four hours northeast of Helsinki. As Finland's first national hotel, it once hosted diplomats and other VIPs. But it had fallen into disrepair before being purchased by Finnish natives Thomas and Saimi Hoyer, who is a model and TV presenter, and also a mushroom expert who co-authored the book Sienia & Ihmisia, or Mushrooms and People.
The ingredients: Hine Rare cognac, wild herbal tea, mushroom foam and porcini dust.
The inspiration: “The woods of Punkaharju and Saimi Hoyer,” says Konttinen, referring to the owner's passion for foraged mushrooms found throughout the area.
The flavor: Earthy and well-balanced. The herbal tea is a light counterpart to the strong cognac, while the foam adds a layer of light richness. The mushroom dust garnish resembles latte art as it lays delicately on the top layer of mushroom foam.
Forage on: Mushrooms (including horn, porcini and matsutakes) grow abundantly in the wild in Finland, and Konttinen sources the cocktail's 'shrooms from the area's local foragers. “Ingredients are from the forest and producers nearby,” he says. “The drink menu is planned with local history and historical people [in mind]."
'Shroom for more: Mushroom cocktails are sprouting up in the U.S., too. At Cafe Gratitude in L.A., bartender Jason Eisner infuses Amontillado sherry with shiitake mushrooms, then adds housemade Spanish vermouth, mezcal, truffle bitters, orange oil and sparkling wine for the Fungus Among Us cocktail. And it's not just cocktails. Brewers are using mushrooms to add a umami flavor to their beers. Jester King uses smoked sea salt and oyster mushrooms to add savory notes to the Snorkel, sour Gose-style beer. Smuttynose Brewing Company's Satchmo—created in conjunction with chef Evan Mallet of The Black Trumpet Bistro in Portsmouth, N.H.—features locally sourced dried black chanterelles, which add a rich earthiness to the brown porter.
Finnish cocktails: According to Konttinen, cocktail culture in Finland is relatively new. “There's no cocktail tradition, but it's starting,” he says. “That's where us bar managers are in a key role.” But if he had to pick a favorite cocktail he'd go with the Negroni. "I like gin, and the cocktail itself is simple, but complex at the same time. It's three ingredients, but still not an easy cocktail to make," he says.
How do you sum up Finland in one sentence? “Clear lakes, clean air and friendly people—once you get to know them.”