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Move over Big Lebowski, the rest of us want to enjoy this creamy coffee flavored cocktail too!
History Of the White Russian
The White Russian cocktail was created in the 1960s. It is a daughter recipe that was born by a simple modification of the Black Russian (a cocktail made using vodka and coffee liqueur): cream was added and the drink visibly turned into a White Russian.
The drink was created in Belgium and is not Russian in origin at all. The name for this cocktail refers to Russian vodka which is the core ingredient for this beverage. It is unclear if this cocktail ever took off in popularity in Russia or not. The popularity and the loyal following for this cocktail in its early years is somewhat underwhelming.
The big break for the White Russian that catapulted this cocktail into fame was the film “The Big Lebowski”. The main character, the Dude (played by Jeff Bridges), is seen sipping on a White Russian throughout the film. He goes out to fetch ingredients to make his own, which sometimes call for substitutions. The drink becomes a type of accessory for this character and fans couldn’t wait to try making their own White Russians too!
The overall vibe of this cocktail is intended to be one of decadence. The richness of this drink is meant to be enjoyed on it’s own, so it’s not a great option for meals, barbecues, or any other food-centric event. Serving it after your meal is a great choice either alongside a light dessert or simply on it’s own.
White Russian Ingredients
The White Russian Cocktail features vodka for the star alcohol. It is a Russian drink, did you really expect anything different? To stay authentic to the recipe I encourage you to pick a Russian brand of vodka is possible. Most Russian vodkas feature a starchy root vegetable that is distilled to make alcohol. If you need help picking a vodka check out this article: “Best Vodka For Moscow Mule – Our Top 8 Favourite Brands”.
Use heavy cream to make your White Russian. Half and half is OK, but using milk is a firm no-go for this cocktail. Milk has comparatively low fat compared to cream, and using milk for this recipe will result in a thin beverage. This will decrease the creamy mouth-feel that we anticipate when we order this cocktail, and without that luxurious texture, the beverage is at risk of falling below expectation.
The secret weapon of a White Russian is Kahlua! Kahlua is a rum based liqueur that is enhanced with coffee flavour. This product hails from eastern Mexico and is distilled in Veracruz.
It has a very sweet flavour and the smell alone is enough to make your taste buds water. Because this liqueur offers such an intensely sweet flavour it is in your best interest to follow the recipe when mixing this drink. Too much Kahlua can ruin the party!
How to Make a Perfect White Russian
Many people prefer to use plant-based products instead of dairy products. You can try to use almond milk or rice milk for this cocktail, but soy milk has the highest fat content and it will be the best substation for the high fat cream that is required in this recipe.
Use large chunks of ice for this recipe to increase your chances of having a slow melt. Too much water melting into your cocktail will result in a diluted flavour, and will have the most impact on cocktails that were prepared using any type of cream product less than 18%. For this reason I recommend you avoid using crushed ice.
No garnish is typically served with this cocktail. However, there would be value in adding some of type of decorative stir stick to this cocktail. This beverage is meant to be sipped, and as it stands the ingredients can separate. Using a stir stick will ensure the ingredients of the cocktail remain fully incorporated and every sip is as good as the first.
Turn this cocktail into a holiday favorite called a White Christmas. Instead of using plain cream you can substitute peppermint flavored creamer and instantly you are drinking a holiday inspired cocktail. You will get bonus points if you add a small candy cane as a garnish (which can also serve as a stir stick).
Many countries also have their own variation of a White Russian. In Mexico they use horchata instead of a dairy based cream, therefore inventing the White Mexican. Horchata is a sweetened rice based beverage that also has spices, such as cinnamon. It adds a fun twist to the White Russian and makes it unique to the Mexican culture.
A dirty Russian is not nearly as promiscuous as it sounds. Instead of using a coffee based liqueur, you would substitute in a chocolate liqueur instead. This adds more sweetness to the drink so be warned: a dirty Russian is reserved for the sweet-tooth of the world!
- 2 oz vodka
- 1 oz Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
- 1 splash heavy cream
- In a short glass, add ice and pour in vodka and Kahlua
- Top drink with a splash of cream. Enjoy!