In praise of the White Russian - Erie News Now | WICU & WSEE in Erie, PA

In praise of the White Russian

Updated: Dec 04, 2014 04:05 PM
© Ingalls Photography / Bonnier © Ingalls Photography / Bonnier


Like “The Dude,” Jeff Bridges' dissolute bowler in the 1998 film The Big Lebowski, I have always felt a personal connection to the White Russian.

It was the go-to tipple for my grandmother — the same woman who daintily claimed she got tipsy “just smelling a drink” during a Prohibition-era first date with my grandfather. And it's a point of pride that, in my 20s, I knocked back an unspecified number of White Russians with her at a bar mitzvah, resulting in a family kick line.

Oh, the power of that trashy mix of vodka, coffee liqueur, and cream. While it doesn't have speakeasy roots or a fashionably bitter edge, bartenders have taken a shine to the drink lately, updating it with artisan coffee liqueurs and infused syrups. But even with these high-minded tweaks, it remains an easy-drinking libation.

The “Russian” refers to vodka, and the Black Russian was created in 1949, with just vodka and coffee liqueur. It's unclear when dairy entered the picture.

Cocktail historian David Wondrich cites 1961's The Diners' Club Drink Book, which mentions two vodka-and-Kahlua drinks, one with cream. But most experts point to the mid-1960s for the White Russian's official debut. That's surely when its popularity hit its stride, spilling over into the sweet-tooth '70s.

Today, the White Russian abides, albeit in delicious new incarnations.

See 6 White Russian variations »

See SAVEUR's favorite coffee liqueurs »


© 2014 SAVEUR
All rights reserved.
*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.
Powered by Frankly
3514 State St. Erie, PA 16508
Newsroom: (814) 454-8812
Business offices: (814) 454-5201
Share Stories
Submit your stories to our site!
Share Photos
Share your photos in our community galleries
RSS Feeds
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2018 WICU. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.
                   WICU/WSEE - 3514 State Street Erie, PA 16508 - (814) 454-5201 -