White Russian

While a White Russian can be made with milk or half and half, heavy cream adds unmatched flavor and texture in this simple cocktail.

White Russian

Matt Taylor-Gross / Food Styling by Lucy Simon

1 drink

Rich and creamy, the White Russian is the Espresso Martini’s delicious older cousin — but  unlike the trendy cocktail, the White Russian leans on heavy cream for its iconic milky hue and soft mouthfeel. The cocktail comes together quickly with just a few ingredients: vodka, coffee liqueur, and a splash of heavy cream. Decadent, heavy cream gets poured over cubed ice (yes, the shape matters!), vodka, and coffee liqueur, resulting in a gorgeous gradient of dark coffee liqueur and bright white cream. The White Russian has the perfect balance of bitter coffee notes, sweetness, and unctuous creamy flavor that combines deliciously.  

Despite its name, the White Russian was not actually invented in Russia, nor does it have anything to do with the country, for that matter. In fact, the inspiration for the drink’s name came from the use of vodka, which, especially in the mid-20th century, was best known for its Russian roots. It first appeared in the late 1940s but quickly popularized in the United States in the 60s, 70s, and 80s when sweeter, more indulgent cocktails were in vogue. During the same time, the Black Russian, a stiffer two-ingredient variation of the cocktail made simply with vodka and coffee liqueur rose in popularity as well. The White Russian made a resurgence in popular culture in 1998 when The Big Lebowski, a Coen brothers movie based on the classic 1940s film, the Big Sleep, premiered. In the movie, the protagonist, Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, famously sips White Russians throughout the film — only one of the many quirks of the memorable character. 

The rich, deep flavor of coffee cocktails lend themselves to variation. For a sweeter twist on the White Russian, try the Dominicana. Served in a sleek, chilled coupe glass, the Dominicana is the brainchild of Sasha Petraske and Richard Boccato of Milk and Honey, the famed New York City cocktail destination which closed in 2020. Like the White Russian, the Dominicana features coffee liqueur and heavy cream, but gets its added sweetness from rum instead of vodka and additional simple syrup. 

Since the White Russian calls for so few ingredients, it’s a great opportunity to highlight quality ingredients. We prefer Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur for its delicate balance of pure coffee flavor and controlled sweetness. Look toward high-quality vodka — and yes, be like Ina Garten and store your vodka in the freezer! While a White Russian can be made with milk or half and half, heavy cream adds unmatched flavor and texture in this simple cocktail — it’s used in such a small quantity and is totally worth it.


  • Ice

  • 2 ounces vodka

  • 1 ounce coffee liqueur

  • 2 ounces chilled heavy cream


  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the vodka, coffee liqueur and heavy cream and shake well. Strain the drink into a chilled, ice-filled rocks glass.

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