White Russian Cocktail

If you've never had a White Russian before, you are in for a treat! Made with vodka, heavy cream, and Kahlúa (a coffee-flavored liqueur), it's sweet, creamy, and delicious. Just skip dessert tonight and drink this instead!

white russian cocktail made with vodka and kahlua
Alison Bickel

If you've seen the 1998 cult classic The Big Lebowski, you know exactly what a White Russian is. For everyone else, a White Russian cocktail is made with vodka, cream, and Kahlúa (a sweet coffee-flavored liqueur made from Arabica coffee, sugar, vanilla, and rum), served over ice in a rocks glass.

You may be thinking, "Hmmm, sounds like a slightly-alcoholic iced vanilla latte!" and you wouldn't be far off. It's buzzy and boozy!

But as someone who doesn’t favor iced vanilla lattes (too sweet, not coffee-ey enough), but will happily sip on a White Russian any day of the week, I assure you there's room for everyone at the White Russian table.

Pour heavy cream into the vodka and kahlua for a white russian cocktail
Alison Bickel

What Does a White Russian Taste Like?

The ingredients in a White Russian are vodka, heavy cream or whole milk, and Kahlúa – three ingredients that, when combined together, create a milky, dessert-like drink that can really only be described as delicious.

Truly, in this case I find "delicious" to be the most apt descriptor. Think of the cream in this drink as a weighted blanket. It takes the edge off the vodka, forcing it to just chill out a little bit, and then snuggles in with the sugary rumness of the Kahlúa.

If you like sweet coffee-flavored foods and desserts (coffee-flavored ice cream, chocolate-covered coffee beans, Affogato), you will like a White Russian. If you like creamy alcoholic drinks like eggnog and Irish coffee, you will like a White Russian. If you like the idea of combining your morning cup of coffee with your afternoon happy hour, you will like a White Russian.

How to make a white russian
Alison Bickel

The Best Vodka for a White Russian

When it comes to the vodka for a White Russian, no need to get fancy. The vodka is a supporting player in this drink – you're going to taste more of the Kahlúa and cream – so something in the $15-$20 range is fine.

I recommend Tito's Homemade Vodka (as does Nancy – it's her go-to vodka), which is widely available and can be bought for under $20.

Creamy decadent white russian cocktail
Alison Bickel

Suggestions and Substitutions for White Russians

It's hard to screw up a White Russian, but follow these tips for a sure-proof drink:

  • If the cream is too much for you, swap it out for whole milk or half-and-half. Avoid low-fat milk, skim milk, and non-dairy milks with a low fat content, otherwise the drink will curdle.
  • Need a reliable dairy-free alternative? Use coconut milk! Here's a recipe.
  • I used a ratio of 2:1:1 vodka, cream, and Kahlua, which gives the drink a definite bite. (It mellows as the ice melts.) If you want more of that overall sweet coffee flavor, with the vodka just nibbling in the background, go for a 1:1:1 ratio.

More Creamy Cocktails for Sipping:

White Russian Cocktail

Prep Time 2 mins
Total Time 2 mins
Serving 1 serving

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces vodka (I used Tito's)
  • 1 ounce Kahlúa
  • 1 ounce heavy cream
  • One large ice cube, or 4-5 smaller ice cubes

Method

  1. Make the drink:

    Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add the Kahlúa and vodka and stir for 30 seconds to chill. Float the cream over top and stir to mix. Enjoy!