In Finland, there is a traditional drink called Sima that is consumed on May Day, which is celebrated on May 1st. Sima has a unique recipe that involves fermentation, resulting in a refreshing taste similar to adult lemonade. In this article, I will introduce the features, history, and attractions of Sima, the traditional Finnish drink.
Features of Sima
May 1st is globally known as May Day, a day when movements for improving workers’ rights take place. In Finland, a Nordic country, every year on May 1st, the holiday called Vappu is celebrated, which also serves as a commemorative day to welcome the arrival of spring with family and friends. On Vappu, parties are held all over Finland, and people enjoy the festivities with their families and friends.
An indispensable beverage on this day is a carbonated drink called “Sima”. Sima is a carbonated drink made from ingredients such as water, lemon, sugar, and dry yeast, characterized by the refreshing acidity of lemon and the sharp sensation of carbonation. While Sima may resemble lemonade in appearance, the fermentation process with dry yeast generates a small amount of alcohol and carbon dioxide, making it a fermented drink containing a trace amount of alcohol. In Finland, non-alcoholic Sima is also sold in supermarkets, but caution is necessary when giving it to children.
Finnish Version of May Day – Vappu
May 1st is a holiday called Vappu in Finland, and unlike the international workers’ rights movement, it is a day to celebrate the arrival of spring with food and drinks brought by citizens. As evening approaches on April 30th, people begin to hold parties with friends, enjoying meals and conversations throughout the night.
On Vappu day, various shops throughout Finland sell Sima, a traditional drink for the holiday. It is also a tradition for people of all ages to wear white hats received upon graduating high school in Finland.
The Sima recipe is straightforward, and you can easily make it at home in Japan. You will need water, lemon, sugar, dry yeast, and raisins for fermentation. Brown sugar or demerara sugar can be used for color.
First, put sugar and lemon in boiling water, and when the water temperature drops to around 40 degrees Celsius, add dry yeast and let it sit overnight. The next day, remove the lemon and transfer it to a separate container and refrigerate for a few days. It is essential to leave the container’s mouth slightly open when storing it to allow gas to escape during fermentation. Raisins are added to promote fermentation, similar to making wine by fermenting grapes. The recommended storage period is about a week.
History of Sima in Finland
Here’s an explanation of how Sima came to be consumed in Finland. Sima is believed to have originated from honey wine imported from Germany and Latvia in the 16th century.
It became a summer drink in Finland around the 17th century after its introduction. However, Sima was a luxury drink for a few privileged classes because it contained expensive ingredients such as honey and lemon.
In the 19th century, sugar was used instead of honey, making Sima an inexpensive drink for the general public, including laborers. Thus, Sima became a popular drink for workers and a staple springtime refreshment in Finland.
Sima is a carbonated drink similar to lemonade, traditionally consumed in Finland on May 1st, Vappu day. Sima’s unique taste comes from the fermentation process using dry yeast, creating a carbonated and slightly alcoholic drink.