The White Russian cocktail is a coffee flavoured cocktail that everyone, from the seasoned cocktail connoisseur to the beer guzzling jock, seems to enjoy. A simple cocktail of vodka, coffee liqueur and cream (or sometimes milk, or half & half) the White Russian cocktail was essentially a variation on the classic Black Russian, which is also a coffee flavoured cocktail, but without the cream, which first appeared in the late 1940s. Neither drink originated in Russia but was so named due to the Russian connection of its principal ingredient, vodka. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the White Russia cocktail was first documented in the Oakland Tribune in November 1965. This is believed to be the first published instance of the drink.
The widespread popularity of the White Russian cocktail has stemmed from the fact that it is a relatively simple cocktail to prepare, ideal for cocktail novices, plus its smooth, creamy taste has given it universal appeal, both for young and old cocktail drinkers alike, plus as coffee consumption has exploded in the last decade this has only helped the popularity of a good coffee flavoured cocktail. The popularity of the White Russian cocktail received a major boost in the late 90s with the arrival of the movie “The Big Lebowski” which heralded “The Dude” character, played by Jeff Bridges, who quickly achieved a cult fan-base as a new kind of cult, slacker, anti-hero. “The Dude” enjoyed bowling, marijuana and a White Russian cocktail, which he also referred to as a “Caucasian”. In the wake of the popularity of the movie and its main character, the simple cocktail began popping up on cocktail menus again all over the world and has since gone on to achieve almost “iconic” status. The White Russian cocktail was also referenced in several other movies, such as “Catwoman” with Halle Berry and the comedy “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People“.
As mentioned earlier, the cream that is used as part of the simple cocktail recipe is sometimes replaced with milk or half & half. Either way, the taste of the resulting White Russian does not differ considerably plus the potency of the drink is still well masked in a “sea” of creamy, coffee smoothness. The coffee liqueur most often associated with the White Russian cocktail recipe is Kahlua, probably due to the fact that it is the most well-known coffee liqueur brand. As could be expected, several White Russian cocktail variations have popped up over the years, such as the Blind Russian, where Baileys Irish Cream replaces the cream in this decadent coffee flavoured cocktail, or the humorously titled Anna Kournikova, which replaces the cream with the much skimmed milk, to create a healthier coffee flavoured cocktail.