Sauna-Jallu tradition was introduced to me as late as 2019.
Jallu, aka jaloviina aka cut brandy is an iconic adult beverage in Finland. It is not a Finnish invention as such but a very Finnish drink indeed: a mixture of brandy, grain liquor and water. What makes it so Finnish then? According my knowledge, Finnish soldiers were offered small amounts of this drink to celebrate Marshall Mannerheim’s 75th birthday in 1942 during the second World War. Those were tough years and we had shortage on everything. So let’s just assume that we had enough brandy or cognac for 25% of soldiers and enough grain liquor to the rest. Instead of figuring out, who gets what, they just gave everyone a mixture of two. The two liquors don’t necessarily mix super well but this was democracy at its best.
Now, the Sauna-Jallu tradition is to bring a full bottle of this delicacy to sauna before you start heating it up. You place the bottle on the bench and let it warm up. You then share the drink when you go to sauna and everyone swishes it like you were using mouth wash. The cap will get hot in sauna so be careful. A pro tip is to turn the bottle upside down before opening the cap or sinking the neck in a bucket of water.
The experience is relatively surprising as this drink, counterintuitively, seems get better after heating. Well, you know what they say about warm vs. cold Japanese sake: premium sake is always served chilled and lower-grade sake is often heated up. Maybe the same goes with premium cognac vs. jaloviina. I am not sure what the swishing part does.
I cannot really recommend trying this out because promoting alcohol consumption is not smart and one of the warning signs that came with the sauna specifically warned against alcohol consumption in sauna. Sharing a bottle like that is not very smart either after all what we have learned during covid. Cups might be an option. A purpose-built Ararat rail is also a neat way to transport also the bottle from A to B.
If you were curious to know, how this drink is made, you just need cognac and grain liquor. As grain liquor may not always be available, I have heard that people have been using vodka instead. There are four different grades of jallu: zero, one, two, and three star:
- Zero Star Jallu – just a little bit cognac, called sergeant major
- One Star Jallu – 25% of cognac, called sheriff or second lieutenant
- Two Star Jallu – 50% jof cognac, called lieutenant
- Three Star Jallu – 75% of cognac, called captain
The key is simply to mix the two ingredients. A pro tip is to buy a bottle of each. Pour a quarter of the vodka to a separate container. Then fill the vodka container with cognac to creat a one star bottle. Finally pour a quarter of the vodka to the cognac bottle to create a delicious bottle of el capitan.