Caffeinated Cocktails: White Russian

In many ways, there has always been a strong connection between the world of alcoholic drinks and Hollywood. Celebrities will sponsor their favorite alcoholic beverages or even go as far as becoming co-owners of their favorite drink brands (we’re looking at you, Ryan Reynolds). However, beyond the glitz and glamor of Southern California, there have been some genuinely iconic cocktails throughout the history of cinema. 

It’s relatively difficult to imagine James Bond without his iconic martini, “shaken not stirred,” or Don Draper without a signature old-fashioned in hand. You might even think of Hannibal Lecter every time you open a Chianti! 

However, there is one movie concoction that stands out above the rest, year after year:

The White Russian 

From the 90’s cult classic “The Big Lebowski,” The White Russian has become a popular drink of choice for film buffs and “dudes” everywhere… even if most people don’t really know what goes into one. While there are certainly many variations on the original recipe, most people only know the White Russian for being one of the few cocktails that use milk (or heavy cream, depending on who you ask). 

In fact, unless you’re a bartender or cocktail mixing enthusiast, you might not know that a White Russian is actually an alcoholic coffee drink! That’s right, welcome back to another edition of Amora’s ongoing series, Caffeinated Cocktails, where we highlight all of our favorite coffee cocktails and liqueurs! 

The White Russian cocktail has gone through some tumultuous history to arrive at where it is today, but it’s definitely earned its fame! From the hands of The Dude himself to your home bar, let’s learn about this velvety drink.

A Brief History Lesson

Prior to the 90’s, the White Russian was not the most popular drink at the bar...to put it delicately. Many cocktail enthusiasts (and perhaps cocktail snobs) looked down on the White Russian as unrefined, overly sweet, and simplistic. This perception still lingers in some communities today, but for the most part, the cocktail has evolved to be a fan favorite, much like the movie that made it famous.

When The Big Lebowski first rolled into theaters, it was not a box office success, to say the least. It received mixed reviews from movie-goers and critics alike and made a very slim profit by the end of its run in major theaters. However, like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and other cult classics before it, it wasn’t until much later that the film became popular. 

Nowadays, both the film and the drink have made a resurgence thanks to each other. The White Russian has gained a sort of “cult classic” following alongside the film, and no conversation about The Big Lebowski can skate over the cocktail of honor. 

White Russian Ingredients

As with any famous cocktail, there is always some debate about the specific ingredients of a White Russian (even though there are only three ingredients). Two of the ingredients stay consistent, as vodka and coffee liqueur make up the drink’s base. The third ingredient, however, varies from recipe to recipe and from person to person. 

If you want to stay faithful to the movie cocktail, you’ll top off the drink with a splash of heavy cream, but some people prefer milk or half & half to finish the cocktail. In the end, the drink will taste pretty much the same regardless of your choice, but some people can get very particular about their White Russian drink mixing.

How To Make A White Russian

Just like their ingredients, White Russian recipes are pretty straightforward and simple! Once you make the original drink, there are also plenty of variations and slight twists you can add to customize the drink to your liking. 

You’ll Need:

  • One rocks glass (the glass type is less important; if you prefer a martini glass or tumbler, use that!)
  • One cocktail shaker
  • Ice
  • 2 ounces of Vodka
  • 1 ounce of coffee liqueur (Kahlua)
  • 1 ounce of either: heavy cream/half & half/milk or milk alternative

To Make:

  • Pour your vodka, coffee liqueur, and cream into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
  • Shake thoroughly to mix
  • Strain your mixture into a rocks glass and enjoy!

As far as cocktails go, it’s one of the simplest ones out there, so don’t be surprised if you add the White Russian to your list of regulars.

As far as variations go, there are a few ways to go about it; adding and changing the ingredients or changing the way you mix the drink. For example, if you want to change the drink’s texture slightly, you can add some frothed egg whites alongside the cream on top.

A common addition to the drink is cinnamon, either in the form of Horchata (instead of cream) or a light dusting on top. You can even try to make your own coffee liqueur, as this recipe suggests! All you need is some brown sugar, cold brew coffee, vanilla extract, and rum.

Finally, if the addition of cream or milk to your cocktail is too much, you could always opt for the cousin of the White Russian, the Black Russian! As you might be able to guess from the name, the only difference between the two drinks is the heavy cream. 

In the end, a White Russian can be a sort of hit-or-miss drink. Many people love it for its sweet flavors, velvety textures, and pop culture fame, while others simply cannot “abide.” If you have other taste variations to this recipe or other suggestions to improve the White Russian, let us know!

Coffee Central

Of course, we love to share our cocktail recipes and ideas with you, but Amora is about more than just cocktails! We want to bring high-quality coffee to as many people as possible without the hassle of a grocery store or middle man. Try our coffee subscription today to get freshly roasted coffee delivered to your front door, just in time for your hot coffee in the morning! 

You can also check out our blog for more coffee tips, tricks, and recipes!


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