Every now and then most Finns want to get highly intoxicated. This is traditionally and acceptably achieved by drinking too much Koskenkorva - a dry, clear drink and fairly strong at 38% ABV. Its name is derived from Koskenkorva town in Pohjanmaa province where it is distilled.
A Short History of Koskenkorva
Koskenkorva was introduced by Alko1 in 1953. Originally it was made from potatoes and later from mixed potato and grain, but modern distillers only use finest Finnish grain. For 40 years Koskenkorva has been more popular than any other vodka in Finland. It could be said that to Finns 'Koskenkorva' is synonymous with 'vodka'.
Koskenkorva's classic label featured Finnish countryside scenery with fields and barns, later replaced with some 'artistic nonsense'. True believers were greatly relieved when its original label was restored with minor modifications around 1990. For 40 years or so, Koskenkorva was only available in 0.5 litre bottles. Now other sizes are available: 4cl, 0.2 litre, 0.7 litre (Euro Kossu) and one litre (Family Kossu) bottles. In many Alkos, most people drink 0.5 litres Koskenkorva followed by 0.7 litre Koskenkorva.
Loved Ones Have Many Names
Apart from Kossu there are lots of other nicknames, normally some sort of modification of Koskenkorva. For example - Kossu, Kosamiini, Kosanderi, Koskenlaskija, Koffu, Koshnitsha, Kosken Jorma, Koskikalja, Koskinen, Koskis, Kosovo and so on. Another popular line of nicknames derives from Finnish people's belief that most sicknesses can be healed with alcohol. Korvalääke (ear medicine), Korvatipat (ear drops), Koskisen kovalääke (Mr Koskinen's hard medicine) and Koskisen kurlausvesi (Mr Koskinen's mouth water) are good examples of this tradition.
How to Drink Kossu
Classically, 'Kosanderi' is drunk, pocket-warm, straight from your hip-flask or bottle. Preferably, you drink it behind a corner at dances or at other gatherings while trying to avoid being seen by bouncers. Only this combination of pocket-warmth and hiding bring out Kossu's true and somewhat violent nature. If you're not looking for too Finnish an experience, 'Kosovo' can also be drunk chilled from glasses or mixed in cocktails.
Koskenkorva is of great importance to Finnish weekend traditions. Your Friday bottle ends your working week and starts your free time. It is drunk during and after saunas - as described in this old song:
To the sauna at five and to the slammer at six
It's a true working man's Saturday2.
So this Friday bottle is to blame for much domestic violence, fights and manslaughters in Finland, which tend to be concentrated around Friday nights and early on Saturday morning.
Europeans, especially Mediterranean ones, tend to drink wine or beer in small quantities every day. This habit is increasingly being acquired by the Finnish, who often no longer just get drunk every weekend. But 'Friday bottle' is by no means an endangered species; it is one of few habits that modern teenagers have learned from their parents.
The following entry on hangover cures may be of some use.