We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a White Russian?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGEEK is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGEEK, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A White Russian is a cocktail which is made with vodka, coffee liqueur, and milk or cream. The origins of the name of the beverage are presumably related to the presence of vodka, a traditionally Russian alcohol. A related drink, the Black Russian, pre-dates the White Russian, and contains similar ingredients. White Russians are often available at bars, and they are also very easy to mix at home, requiring no special tools or skills.

Conventionally, this drink is served in an old fashioned glass, a short tumbler which is designed to accommodate ice and a few cocktail ingredients. To make a White Russian, chunks of ice are dropped into the glass before vodka, coffee liqueur, and cream are poured in. When finished, the drink tends to stand in layers, with the clear vodka on the bottom and the cream floating on top. The drinker may choose to slowly stir in the cream before drinking.

Kahlúa is a popular brand of coffee liqueur which is commonly used to make White Russians. Some bartenders may use Tia Maria, another well known brand, or an entirely different liqueur, depending on personal choice and availability. Given that Kahlúa and coffee liqueurs in general tend to be very sweet, the White Russian is typically very sweet, with a rich flavor from the cream. Lighter milk is sometimes used to make the beverage less heavy, and it is also possible to use non-dairy alternatives, although some may behave strangely when mixed with alcohol.

The origins of the White Russian appear to lie in the 1960s, when the drink first started cropping up along the West Coast of the United States. Numerous variations on the drink have been developed since then. The name was probably taken from the Black Russian, a drink with vodka and coffee liqueur but no cream; the “white” is a reference to the creamy color of the finished drink. This drink should not be confused with the White Russians, an anti-Bolshevik movement which was active during the Russian Civil War.

Traditionally, the ratio in a White Russian is 1:1:1, meaning that one part of each ingredient is added. Adjustments in the ingredient levels will naturally lead to a stronger, sweeter, or creamier drink, depending on which ingredients are adjusted. White Russians are not typically garnished, and they are generally considered after dinner drinks, due to their sweetness and richness.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Buster29 — On Nov 14, 2014

I think White Russians became way more popular after the release of the Coen brothers' movie "The Big Lebowski". The lead character, played by Jeff Bridges, drinks White Russians throughout the movie. If he isn't ordering one at a bar, he's mixing several up at his house. One of the movie's subplots actually centers around his trip to the grocery store to get more milk to make White Russians.

I wouldn't say White Russians were my absolute favorite cocktails, but they are not nearly as harsh as most straight whiskeys or tequilas can be. They can also be made at any state of intoxication, which makes it ideal for college parties, if memory serves.

By Cageybird — On Nov 13, 2014

Back in my drinking days, my beverage of choice was a White Russian cocktail. My favorite bartender had his own White Russian drink recipe that included Bailey's Irish Cream along with the vodka and coffee liqueur. He added a splash of milk to keep it from being too harsh, and served it in a large glass with ice and a straw.

I'd usually drink three or four during the course of a night, but there was one time when I drank far too many. There is a surprising amount of alcohol in a White Russian, and it will sneak up on you if you are not careful. Some people might get confused by the sweetness and smoothness of the drink to notice they've reach their limit.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Read more
WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.