The White Russian is one of the easiest and most popular vodka cocktails and it is a drink that every bartender should know.
The recipe is very simple: mix vodka and coffee liqueur with cream. The result is a delicious, creamy cocktail that is perfect after dinner or anytime you are looking for a quick, delightful drink.
There are two common ways to make a White Russian. The easiest is to build the ingredients directly in a glass as directed in the recipe below.
The other option will test your bartending skills as you float the cream on top of the spirits and ice. It may require a bit of practice to get a clean layer, but it makes for a great looking drink. Serve this with a straw and allow the drinker to stir the ingredients as they like.
Fun Fact: David Wondrich has an interesting history about the White Russian on Esquire.com. The revelation? It all began with gin and chocolate in a Russian and an interesting vodka drink called the Barbara.
More Tips for Making a Great White Russian
The Vodka. The biggest question with the White Russian is which vodka to use. The simple answer is: whatever vodka you want.
There are many great tasting and inexpensive vodkas available it is mixed drinks like this that are perfect for them. This is not a Vodka Martini and the cream will disguise any impurities in the vodka used, so feel free to use your favorite well vodka for this drink.
The White Russian is the perfect mixed drink to experiment with flavored vodkas as well. By starting with an infusion of strawberries or raspberries, you can add a new fruit dimension to make the drink really interesting. This is also a good drink to use the delicious cake, whipped cream, and other dessert-flavored vodkas.
The Coffee Liqueur. Kahlua is the most popular coffee liqueur used in a White Russian. There are many other options available and, again, it is not necessary to buy top-shelf to make a good drink.
The Cream. The drink's cream seems like another easy ingredient though there are a few options. Heavy cream is a popular choice because, though it is heavier, only a small amount is used in the drink so it becomes lighter as the ice melts while adding a lush texture.
Light cream and half and half are both good options as well. I have seen people use whole milk as well, though I would not personally recommend it.
No matter which cream you choose, make sure that it is fresh or you may have wasted your liquor. Check the dates!
How Strong is the White Russian?
If we were to use an 80 proof vodka and mix the White Russian according to the recipe above, it would be approximately 24% ABV (48 proof). Even though it will mellow a bit as the ice melts, it is a deceptive cocktail and a little more potent than you may think.
Cocktails Similar to the White Russian
There are a number of vodka cocktails that are very similar to the White Russian that you may also want to try.
- Black Russian - Skip the cream.
- Brave Bull - A Black Russian with tequila.
- Colorado Bulldog - Add cola.
- Dirty Bird - Give the White Russian a quick shake at the end.
- Dirty White Mother - Switch the vodka out for brandy.
- Mudslide - Skip the cream and use Irish cream liqueur.
- Roasted Toasted Almond - Add amaretto.
- Smith & Kearns - Skip the vodka, switch from cream to half and half, and add club soda. Keep the vodka for a Smith & Wesson.
- Sneaky Pete - Replace the vodka with rye whiskey.