The White Russian cocktail originally came from the Black Russian cocktail when someone added heavy cream to the classic drink in the 1950s. This drink was moderately popular until the 1998 cult classic movie The Big Lebowski helped it to skyrocket in popularity. Few films have influenced cocktail culture as much as “The Dude” has.
This drink is perfect for an after dinner drink. This three ingredient cocktail is easy to master and serve at home. Let’s learn to make a classic White Russian cocktail.
White Russian Ingredients
- Vodka – Choose a quality, unflavored vodka.
- Kahlúa – Classic rum and coffee liqueur. This is the primary ingredient because most of the flavor comes from the Kahlua.
- Heavy Cream – Add creaminess to the recipe.
The best glass for a White Russian drink is a rocks glass. You’ll also want to make large ice cubes for a drink like this. The prep time for this drink is only a few short minutes—so taking the time for the ice cube is worth it as it elevates the presentation.
What does a White Russian taste like?
A White Russian is a smooth coffee flavored drink. It tastes like a boozy version of an iced latte, perfectly creamy and easy to sip. If you enjoy an Affogato or a coffee flavored ice cream you will most likely love this cocktail.
In a rocks glass, pour Kahlúa and vodka and an oversized ice cube.
Top with a splash of heavy cream.
Stir a bit to mix ingredients fully before sipping.
The White Russian cocktail is a variation of the Black Russian which was created by bartender Gustave Tops when another bartender in Oakland, California decided to add heavy cream to the drink in 1955. The drink was moderately popular during the next few decades.
In the 1998 the Coen brothers film, The Big Lebowski, changed everything for the White Russian. Very few times in history has an onscreen character had such a big impact on a cocktail’s popularity (think Carrie Bradshaw and her influence on the Cosmo). Ever since 1998 the White Russian has been one of world’s most popular cocktails. Emma and I even visited a The Big Lebowski-themed bar in Iceland and sipped White Russians together.
Tips for Making
- Drink this cocktail fully mixed. The photos where the cream and coffee-flavored liqueur are not fully mixed yet are the most compelling and beautiful, but this drink is most delicious once the three ingredients are fully mixed.
- Use large pieces of ice that melt more slowly for the best sipping experience. The bigger the ice cubes, the slower they melt.
- Heavy cream is advised and half and half will work if that is what you have on hand. We don’t recommend any dairy that is thinner than half and half (whole milk is too watery). If you are going for a dairy-free option, choose a thick vegan creamer.
- The best vodka for a White Russian is a quality, mid-priced brand like Titos (my favorite brand), Grey Goose or Smirnoff. Anything fancier is not necessary because the main flavor you will taste in this drink is from the Kahlua.
White Russian Variations
- Peppermint White Russian – We love this festive peppermint White Russian.
- Pumpkin Spice White Russian – Swap Kahlua for seasonal Pumpkin Spice Kahlua for this seasonal variation.
- Vegan White Russian – We’ve got a recipe for a dairy-free White Russian.
- Black Russian – Technically, this is the drink that came before the White Russian, but by omitting the heavy cream from this recipe you will have a Black Russian.
- Bailey’s Irish Cream – You can swap the heavy cream for Bailey’s if you have it on hand.
Serving Suggestions/Goes Great With
Other recipes you may like:
- Turkey Chili
- Stuffed Mushrooms
- Easy Vodka Sauce
- Learn to make Homemade Eggnog.
- Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
- For kids, try our Harry Potter Butterbeer recipe.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a White Russian made of?
A White Russian recipe consists of vodka, Kahlua and heavy cream. It is served over ice.
What is the difference between a Black and White Russian?
The only difference between a Black and White Russian recipe is whether or not cream is added.
Why is it called a White Russian?
When cream was first added to a “Black Russian” cocktail it became the “White Russian.” This drink did not originate in Russia, but it is named that because the base spirit is vodka.
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- 2 ounces vodka
- 1 ounce Kahlua
- 1 ounce heavy cream
- In a rocks glass, add Kahlúa and vodka and an oversized ice cube.
- Top with a splash of heavy cream.
- Stir a bit to mix ingredients fully before sipping.
Notice: Nutrition is auto-calculated, using Spoonacular, for your convenience. Where relevant, we recommend using your own nutrition calculations.