The White Russian Cocktail is a delicious riff on the popular Black Russian. By adding cream to the mix of Vodka and Kahlua, the cocktail turns white and becomes richer and sweeter.
The beauty of this drink lies in its simplicity. The recipe only calls for three ingredients. And just like with a Black Russian, you can make a beautiful White Russian in a minute.
And even though you might know the drink from the Big Lebowski, a popular 90s movie, the White Russian has been around for a lot longer.
How to make the best White Russian
When making such a simple cocktail, details do matter. So to get the best possible White Russian, you should use quality products, carefully measure the ratios, and keep a few other things in mind. But let's start with the ingredients.
First and foremost, you need a solid Vodka base. Absolut Vodka is a great choice and quite affordable. However, if you have a favorite brand, just go with that.
But most importantly, stay away from flavored Vodkas. They add artificial aromas you don't want in this drink.
Next up is the coffee liqueur. For me, Kahlúa is the best choice and is good value for money. -The delicious Mexican coffee liqueur is a staple in bars around the globe for a reason.
And the final ingredient that will turn our Black Russian into a white one is heavy cream.
Some recipes replace heavy cream with lighter options like milk. But the cocktail really does depend on the rich and creamy texture heavy cream is adding. Therefore, if you mix your drink with milk, you will get something only half as tasty.
The best ratio for a White Russian
The ideal ratio depends on personal preferences. But I like a 2:1:1. Two parts Vodka, one part coffee liqueur, and one part cream.
Mix Vodka and coffee liqueur in a mixing glass with plenty of ice and strain into an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass. Then carefully pour over the heavy cream.
For that beautiful swirl effect, slowly stir the drink. Remember, that only works if you gently float the heavy cream on top. So be careful at that step.
History of the White Russian
When looking into the history of the White Russian, one quickly comes across the fact that it probably is not related to Russia in any way.
Russian seems to be merely referring to the Vodka base. And as Vodka is more or less omnipresent in Russia, both these drinks got named accordingly. - Yet, recent research shows that Russia might not be the origin of Vodka but Poland.
And there's an interesting side fact: The Black Russian was mentioned in writing for the first time in 1949. According to Oxford Dictionary, the first mention of a White Russian was in 1965, 16 years later.
But historians found that long before both drinks were invented, a Russian cookbook recommended mixing coffee liqueur with cream. And that is the recipe for a White Russian if you strip out the Vodka.
So, who knows if the origin of the White Russian is somehow related to Russia after all?
But let's get back to the White Russian cocktail as we know it today:
The first mention from 1965 was in the Oakland Tribune newspaper. A simple recipe was added as an insert asking for 1 ounce of each: Vodka, cream, and southern. Southern refers to a coffee liqueur brand available around that time.
Even though the cocktail recipe had existed since the 60s, it took until the 90s to gain popularity. When it starred in the Big Lebowski as "the Dude's" favorite drink, the White Russian was suddenly one of the most sought-after drinks in the world.
And just like the movie, the cocktail developed somewhat of a cult following. This hype ultimately established the recipe. Today, it's something every halfway decent bartender knows how to make.
White Russian variations
Technically, of course, the White Russian is already a twist itself. But still, the White Russian offers plenty of room for its own tweaks. There are few other cocktails where this is so easy.
But there are many other ways to tweak the recipe. By replacing the heavy cream with skimmed milk, you get a Skinny Russian.
- 2 oz Vodka
- 1 oz Kahlúa
- 1 oz Heavy cream
- Fill an Old Fashioned glass with ice and set it aside.
- Mix Vodka and Kahlúa in a mixing glass with ice until well-chilled.2 oz Vodka, 1 oz Kahlúa
- Strain the mix into the Old Fashioned glass.
- Gently float the heavy cream on top and gently swirl while serving.1 oz Heavy cream