Salmiakki Koskenkorva, (also Salmiakkikossu for short or generically as Salmari) is a pre-mixed vodka cocktail which caused a minor revolution in drinking culture in Finland during the 1990s. Canonically salmiakkikossu consists of Koskenkorva Viina vodka and ground up Turkish Pepper brand salty liquorice. Very similar drinks are popular in Denmark, but are referred to with names like "sorte svin" (black swine) or "små grå" (little grays) instead. In Northern Germany, there is also another very similar drink with the name "Schwarze Sau" (black sow) which is based on Doppelkorn instead of vodka. It is most popular in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein and often associated with that state.
Salmiakki Koskenkorva is a somewhat viscous liquid of characteristic black color, dark grayish brown in thinner layer. At closer view, very fine particulate of carbon black suspended in the liquid is visible.
Before the 1990s, Finland had a very thin and stratified cocktail culture. Some Finnish drinking establishments started serving a drink made out of ground ammonium chloride based candy (Salmiakki in Finnish). It became a trendy drink especially amongst the youth of the day, for which some consider and call it a "teenager's vodka".
However, one must note that the origin and recipe of the beverage are based on anecdotal reference. The concept of mixing vodka and licorice probably existed long before the 1990s, since both Koskenkorva Viina vodka and Turkish Pepper licorice existed before the alleged invention the cocktail. On the other hand, Salmiakki Koskenkorva was one of the first pre-mixed cocktails that hit the market in Finland. Another well-known anecdote says that singer Jari Sillanpää invented the drink when he was working as a bartender in the late 1980s.
The taste of Salmiakki Koskenkorva resembles strongly that of black licorice and cough medicine (this is because the original mixture, see Apteekin salmiakki, used in Salmiakki Koskenkorva is also used in cough medicines), and has the additional effect of increasing salivation.
Based on the urban legend of a mythical teenager who suffered a heart attack as a result of Salmari, stories published in tabloids created a furor. A resulting public backlash induced the state owned alcohol retailer to withdraw the premixed drink from sale. This withdrawn stock was not destroyed, merely warehoused for five years until the controversy died down. Even when Salmiakkikossu was withdrawn, the effect it had on Finnish cocktail culture remained.
Although the rumor of the heart attack was a hoax, the drink may still cause harm. The strong flavor almost completely masks the presence of ethanol, and the drinker may not realize he is consuming a drink almost 40% alcohol by volume (80-proof), leading to possible alcohol poisoning.
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Salmiakki Koskenkorva, en.wikipedia.org
Finland and Alcohol, www.metalfromfinland.com