Fun fact: The White Russian isn’t Russian at all, but rather an American invention!
The cocktail first appeared in The Savoy Cocktail Book, by Harry Craddock back in 1930, and it consisted of gin, vodka, and crème de cacao. At the time, vodka was an almost exclusively Russian export, hence the name.
Easy to make, the cocktail quickly became a popular. Over time, it evolved into the present day drink of vodka, coffee liqueur, and cream – or in our case, coconut!
Made With Coconut Milk & Coffee Liqueur
I didn’t want my vegan and dairy-free friends to miss out on this classic cocktail of vodka, coffee liqueur, and cream, so I've reinvented it with coconut milk.
Not only does the cocktail retain its decadence, but the coconut flavor melds so perfectly with the coffee liqueur, making this an even better cocktail altogether.
Some sugar is considered unsuitable for vegans because of a processing system that uses bone char. Kahlúa, a common ingredient in traditional White Russians, was at one time vegan, but it uses sugar from a facility that uses a bone char, which means you'll have to find a vegan coffee liqueur or make your own.
It takes a little planning but Homemade Vegan Coffee Liqueur is easy and lasts for up to a year in the refrigerator.
Tips for Making a Good White Russian
A few notes before we get to the cocktail itself:
- Please, please, please don’t use cheap vodka for this. It’s the main ingredient and you can’t make a good cocktail with bad booze. I highly recommend Tito’s Vodka as its widely available, affordable, and smooth.
- Play around with the coffee liqueur! If you're only concerned about it being diary free for allergy reasons, and you're not vegan, then Kahlúa is the go-to coffee liqueur for this cocktail, but Trader Vic’s Kona and St . George NOLA Coffee Liqueur are also phenomenal choices that offer a richer, bolder coffee flavor for the same price. (Both can be picked up online or at nearly any liquor store.) If you want vegan coffee liqueur try our homemade coffee liqueur recipe.
Popular White Russian Variations
Lastly, a number of popular variations of the White Russian exist. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Try swapping out coffee liqueur with crème de cacao or amaretto, or going half-and-half with either of them.
- A small splash of cinnamon or ginger liqueur is also a nifty addition, especially around the holidays.
- For a traditional White Russian, swap out the coconut cream for heavy cream.
- Lastly, if you’re feeling a bit bawdy, trade the vodka for bourbon.
Want More Great Cocktails?
- Coquito (Puerto Rican Coconut Eggnog)
- Dark and Stormy
- Pomegranate Paloma
- Fall-Spiced Old Fashioned Cocktail
- Brown Sugar Irish Coffee
Coconut White Russian
There’s a bit of an unspoken rule amongst cocktail connoisseurs that one shouldn’t measure out a White Russian. It should always be eyeballed according to the taste of the drinker. However, the following measurements are a perfect starting point for the novice.
Coconut milk sometimes separates in the can if it’s been sitting a while so be sure to give it a good shake before using.
Not vegan? Here's our traditional White Russian Recipe.
- 2 ounces vodka
- 1 ounce coffee liqueur
- Coconut milk, to taste
Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add the vodka and coffee liqueur and give it a quick swirl or two to mix. Top with a generous splash of coconut milk and serve. Stir together if you desire.