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Here’s how to make a White Russian! This classic cocktail starring vodka and Kahlua hits the spot anytime and in any season. Keep reading for the White Russian recipe, ingredients, and the history of the drink.

White Russian
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Here’s a drink that takes just 2 minutes and hits the spot in any season: the White Russian! This cocktail mixes vodka with coffee liqueur and cream in a decadently creamy, searingly sweet beverage. You may know it from the 1990’s movie The Big Lebowski, but this drink has been around since the 1950’s. It’s a total treat, and couldn’t be easier to make! Here’s what you need to know to make the best White Russian around.

What is a White Russian?

The White Russian is a cocktail made with vodka, heavy cream, and coffee liqueur. It’s a variation on the Black Russian, a mix of coffee liqueur and vodka. The Black Russian cocktail stems back to 1949, when it was created for the American ambassador to Luxembourg in a hotel bar in Brussels. So the drink is not Russian in origin: it was simply named for the vodka!

Adding cream to make the White Russian cocktail began in 1955 in Oakland, California. It gives the drink a creamy mouthfeel and a richness that’s almost like latte. The White Russian exploded in popularity due to the 1998 cult-classic movie The Big Lebowski. After seeing the main character “the Dude” down drink after drink, you’ve got to try it for yourself!


White Russian ingredients

This White Russian recipe is a three ingredient drink that’s beyond simple to make. It’s one of those cocktails you can build in the glass: no cocktail shaker or mixing glass required! The White Russian ingredients are:

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce coffee liqueur (Kahlua, Tia Maria, or other)
  • 1 ounce heavy cream

How to make a White Russian

Want to mix up this drink recipe to impress guests? Here’s how to make a White Russian:

  • Add the vodka and and coffee liqueur to a glass. Fill the glass the ice.
  • Pour in 1 ounce of heavy cream.
  • Stir gently to get the swirl effect. Stir a White Russian vigorously and it’s a solidly beige drink. But want to get the swirl effect? Stir it gently just a few times, and the cream will swirl into the vodka and Kahlua in a beautiful pattern. It looks much more impressive!
  • Step it up and use clear ice! Clear ice is artisanal ice that’s crystal clear, instead of cloudy like ice from a tray. Cut it into large, organic shapes and it looks like something you’d find at an upscale bar. Here’s How to Make Clear Ice: all you need is 24 hours and a small cooler.
White Russian

Alternatives to cream

Want to make a lighter version of this White Russian recipe? Use half and half, whole, or 2% milk. Here are the pros and cons to using these alternatives in this classic drink recipe:

  • Half and half: Half and half has less milk fat than cream, but it still makes for a rich and creamy White Russian. It’s a nice alternative that makes a lighter drink.
  • Milk: Milk makes a more watery, less nuanced drink than with cream. However, it makes this cocktail easier to drink since it’s not as rich and reduces the calories. Use only whole milk or 2% (avoid low-fat or skim milk here).

About Kahlua and coffee liqueur

Kahlua carries most of the magic in this White Russian. But what actually is it? Here’s what to know about this coffee liqueur and other types you can use:

  • Kahlua is a coffee liqueur made in Mexico with rum, sugar and coffee. It does have some caffeine, but only about 25% as much as the same volume of coffee.
  • Kahlua costs about $20 per bottle. As a substitute, try other types of coffee liqueur, like Tia Maria or Sheridan’s.
  • Many other cocktails use Kahlua. Use the rest of the bottle to make other Kahlua drinks like a Mudslide, Bushwacker, Black Russian, or the famous Espresso Martini.
Clear ice

Best vodka for a White Russian

A rule of thumb for vodka in a White Russian? Use a mid-priced vodka: avoid very inexpensive or high-end vodka. Why? The Kahlua and cream are very strong and easily overpower a great vodka. But you don’t want to go too bottom shelf: low quality vodka can ruin the drink. Avoid vodka that is very cheap ($10 to $15 per 750 ml bottle range). Brands like Tito’s and Smirnoff work well here, as well as other mid range brands like Grey Goose.

White Russian variations

The White Russian is sweet and creamy! It works before dinner, after dinner, or anytime in between. There are several famous variations on the classic White Russian. Here are all the drinks in the family:

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White Russian

Classic White Russian

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 6 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 2 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x


Here’s how to make a White Russian! This classic cocktail recipe starring vodka and Kahlua hits the spot anytime and in any season.


  • 2 ounces* vodka
  • 1 ounce Kahlua (or other coffee liqueur)
  • 1 ounce heavy cream
  • Ice, for serving (try clear ice)


  1. Add the vodka and Kahlua to a low ball glass. Fill it with ice.
  2. Top with the cream. Stir until cold (or stir just a bit to get the swirl effect).


*To convert to tablespoons, 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons.

  • Category: Cocktails
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegetarian

More vodka cocktails

The White Russian is a well-known vodka cocktail, one of many tasty drinks with this spirit! Here are a few more vodka cocktails to add to your collection:

  • Classic Moscow Mule The refreshing, bubbly classic! Copper mugs, ginger beer, and lime.
  • Vodka Tonic or Vodka Soda Two of the easiest mixed drinks! These two-ingredient cocktails are bubbly, citrusy, and refreshing.
  • Cosmopolitan This vibrant pink drink is perfect for celebrations of all kinds: here’s our new and improved version.
  • Classic Bloody Mary The store-bought version can’t hold a candle to this brilliantly flavored homemade mix.
  • Vodka Cranberry The easiest cocktail: just vodka and cranberry juice!
  • Transfusion Mix grape juice, lime and ginger ale for a tasty highball.

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Roshni Mathur says:

    Very useful post for us thanks.

  2. Martin Coman says:

    What a great article. I love the in-depth details on the ingredients… I actually learned something new about Kahlua.

    And the recipe is great, of course. Same measurements I use for my White Russians.
    For any interested White-Russian-lover, I made a delicious riff on the White Russian not so long ago. It introduces Hazelnut to the mix, and hence is named Hazy Russian. Check it out if you’re interested. It’s nom nom :D


  3. ishika says:

    Whenever we praise someone, we give him a number, like if I appreciate your post from one to 10, I would like to give you the full number of 10 because you wrote your post very well. The word is very beautiful. I hope you will keep writing such excellent posts in your life and we will definitely comment by reading these posts.

  4. Mellissa says:

    A cocktail that is creamy and flavorful and full of Christmas IEEE cheer🌲🌲🥂definitely my go to holiday drink🎅🤶🧑‍🎄❤

  5. Michael Diver says:

    Love your White Russians!

  6. Alex says:

    Let us know if you have any questions!