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White Russian

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white russians in glass on table
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

A rich and creamy White Russian cocktail is worth knowing how to make by heart. It only requires three ingredients — vodka, coffee liqueur, and heavy cream — and the result is the perfect little night cap or sweet treat.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Where Did the White Russian Originate?

While it’s easy to assume the drink has origins in Russia, its story actually begins at the Hotel Metropole in Brussels. In 1949, a bartender named Gustav Topps created both the Black Russian and the White Russian cocktails to honor Perle Mesta, a former U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg known for throwing lavish parties for artists, politicians, and entertainers. The “Russian” in the title signifies the use of vodka in the cocktails.

Since then, the White Russian lived somewhat in obscurity until the 1998 movie The Big Lebowski, in which Jeffrey “the Dude” Lebowski is seen kicking back a White Russian in multiple scenes. Now, you can’t mention the name of the cocktail without someone saying “The dude abides.”

What’s the Difference Between a Black Russian and a White Russian? 

A Black Russian is a simple mix of vodka and coffee liqueur, while the White Russian includes heavy cream (hence its name).

How Do You Make a White Russian?

I tried a few different ratios while developing this recipe, and the one I landed on was the most balanced on my palate. Feel free to add more or less of whatever you prefer.

Fill an Old-Fashioned glass with ice. Add 1 1/2 ounces vodka and 1 1/2 ounces coffee liqueur and stir. Depending on how creamy you prefer your drink, pour 1/2  to 3/4 ounce cold heavy cream over the top. You can stir it in or let the cream swirl into the top; when stirred, the cocktail will be beige in color.

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White Russian Recipe

This rich and creamy cocktail is made with vodka, coffee liqueur, and heavy cream.

YieldMakes 1 cocktail

Prep time 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • Ice

  • 1 1/2 ounces

    vodka

  • 1 1/2 ounces

    coffee liqueur, such as Kahlúa

  • 1/2 to 3/4 3/4 ounce

    cold heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Fill an Old-Fashioned or lowball glass with ice. Add 1 1/2 ounces vodka and 1 1/2 ounces coffee liqueur, and stir to combine. Pour 1/2 to 3/4 ounce cold heavy cream (use 3/4 ounce if you like it really creamy) on top. You can allow the cream to mix in dramatically on its own, or stir to combine.

Amelia Rampe

Studio Food Editor

Amelia is a Filipino-American food and travel writer, food stylist, recipe developer, and video host based in Brooklyn, NY. She graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education and worked in kitchens under Jean-Georges Vongerichten at ABC Kitchen and Nougatine at Jean-Georges. She is a former contributing food editor at Bon Appétit Magazine and current Studio Food Editor at thekitchn.com. Her recipes have been published by Food52, Bon Appetit, Washington Post and more.

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