Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The White Russian Cocktail

White Russian Cocktail in rocks glass

Like liquid ice cream

Anyone who’s seen The Big Lebowski has heard about the White Russian Cocktail. The key character in that movie—a slacker known as The Dude—drinks them often. In fact, sometimes White Russians seem to provide 100% of his daily calories.

It’s not hard to see why. With its mix of vodka, Kahlúa, and sweet cream, the drink tastes like boozy ice cream. One sip, and you’ll agree: This drink abides.


White Russian Cocktail in rocks glass

Recipe: The White Russian Cocktail

Although vodka is now the most popular spirit in the US, it wasn’t always this way. Before the late 1950s, most drinkers in the US never consumed vodka. And it wasn’t until the 1970s that vodka’s popularity really started to take off. So many of the drinks that call for vodka are of fairly recent origin—including the White Russian. No one is quite sure when (or where) the drink was invented, but it probably dates back to the mid-1960s (or perhaps a few years before).

This drink calls for 2 parts vodka to 1 part each Kahlúa and heavy cream. It’s usually served over ice in a rocks (Old-Fashioned) glass. But if you prefer, you can serve it “up” in a cocktail glass.

This recipe takes about 5 minutes to make, and serves one.

Ingredients
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce Kahlúa (or another coffee liqueur of your choice)
  • 1 ounce heavy cream
Procedure
  1. Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Shake vigorously for a good 30 seconds (longer shaking helps make the cream foamy).
  2. Strain into an ice-filled rocks (Old-Fashioned) glass. Serve with straws.
White Russian Cocktail in rocks glass

Notes
  • Any name-brand vodka will work in this drink. We generally use Smirnoff because we can’t tell the difference between it and the fancier brands, especially in a cocktail. (Plain vodka is tasteless. When people distinguish “flavor” differences among vodkas, they’re probably picking up on how well filtered a particular brand is. Cheaper vodkas may seem harsher because they haven’t been filtered to the same degree as more expensive ones.)
  • Because plain vodka doesn’t have a flavor profile of its own, it’s the ideal spirit for cocktails in which other flavors dominate—as the cream and Kahlúa do in this drink.
  • Traditionally, vodka has been made throughout northern, central, and eastern Europe—but most people in the US think of it as Russian. As a result, early vodka-based drinks often were given Russian-associated names. Probably the first vodka drink to take the US by storm was the Moscow Mule (which contains lime juice and ginger beer, in addition to vodka).
  • The White Russian Cocktail was preceded by an earlier drink called simply the Russian Cocktail (which is equal parts vodka, gin, and crème de cacao).
  • Another riff off the Russian Cocktail is the Barbara Cocktail (also known as the Russian Bear). It contains 2 parts vodka, 1 part crème de cacao, and 1 part cream.
  • There’s also a cocktail called the Black Russian (2 parts vodka, 1 part Kahlúa).
  • A vodka-less drink in a similar vein is the Sombrero Cocktail—equal parts Kahlúa and cream.
  • Another, related drink combines equal parts brandy and Kahlúa. It’s called the Dirty Mother (or Mudder). Who gets to dream up these names?
  • When The Big Lebowski was released in 1998, it didn’t make much of a splash. The reviews were mixed, and the movie didn’t fare particularly well at the box office. But over the years, it’s become a cult classic. And like many cult films, it’s a movie that people tend to either love or hate. Count us among the lovers. 
  • The Big Lebowski was written, produced, and directed by the Coen brothers—Joel and Ethan. They say it was inspired in part by the writings of mystery novelist Raymond Chandler.
  • If you haven’t seen the movie, here are some background tidbits about it: The Dude (played by Jeff Bridges) is an unemployed slacker living in Los Angeles. Other than drinking White Russians, his chief interests are bowling and hanging out. The Dude refers to White Russian Cocktails as “Caucasians.”
  • In the movie, The Dude’s real name is Jeffrey Lebowski. He’s attacked by a pair of thugs who are trying to retrieve money owed by Lebowski’s wife. But The Dude isn’t married (that’s way too ambitious for a slacker). The thugs have made a mistake—they confused The Dude with another Jeffrey Lebowski. This Lebowski—The Big Lebowski—is the opposite of a slacker. He’s obsessed with achieving. And he’s rich. Or so it appears.
  • During the course of the movie, the Big Lebowski’s wife is kidnapped and Big hires The Dude to deliver a ransom. Then things get weird (that is, even weirder than they were to begin with). But we won’t spoil it for you—because if you haven’t seen this movie yet, you owe it to yourself.
White Russian Cocktail in rocks glass

“Careful, Man, There’s a Beverage Here”

“Did you know there’s an annual Lebowski Fest”? asked Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “This year it’s being held in Los Angeles on March 13th and 14th.”

“As a matter of fact, I did know that,” I said. “The attendees call themselves ‘Achievers.’”

“I think that’s supposed to be like, ironic,” said Mrs K R, using her best Dudespeak.

“Yeah, since they spend their time drinking White Russians,” I said. “And hanging out.”

“They bowl, too,” said Mrs K R. “In fact, part of the event takes place in a bowling alley.”

“And of course they watch the movie,” I said.

“Sounds heavy,” said Mrs K R. “I may need another White Russian to deal with it.”

Mrs K R, Achiever.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Smith and Curran Cocktail
Milk Punch Cocktail
Eggnog
Brandy Alexander
Grasshopper Cocktail
Twentieth Century Cocktail
Cocktail Basics
Or check out the index for more

116 comments:

  1. Hi John , another cocktail to add to my collection , I love the movie The Big Lebowski . This a pretty cocktail almost to pretty to drink ... nope , change my mind I will drink it down . Thanks for sharing ... Pinning ~Nee~ :)

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    1. Hi Nee, isn't that a great movie? We love it! And this is such a fun drink. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  2. These were flowing like water at our house during the week of Thanksgiving. My husband's aunt is a HUGE fan of the cocktail. Maybe I should have asked her is she was also a fan of The Dude. ;)

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    1. Hi Pamela, you should definitely ask your husband's aunt if she's an Achiever. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Hi John!
    Waaaay before The Big Lewbowski, I was drinking White Russians, Black Russians and yes even a few Sombreros. Whenever Kahlúa is involved, I'm there. I think I prefer the White Russian to them all because it is smooth and creamy and oh so delicious. Gee, I haven't had one in quite a while. I may just need to give myself a Valentine treat with just one:) (I actually made an Irish Coffee for Irish Coffee Day but, you didn't hear that from me, lol:) Or, wait until National Kahlúa Day which as you know is right around the corner also:) Yes indeed, heavy in calories but oh so worth it!

    Interesting about the Lewbowski Fest but something tells me, that last shot with the scrabble tiles would sure be good as an advertisement for one or the other:) LOVE it!

    Thanks for sharing, John...

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    1. Hi Louise, I'm looking forward to National Kahlúa Day! And maybe have one of these to celebrate. ;-) That last picture was pure fun to do! Thanks for the comment.

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  4. I like simple drink like this. I love that last photo, John. It is very creative. This reminds me to see the movie. Thank you, John.! :)

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    1. Hi Ray, isn't that last photo fun? I couldn't resist it! And you should definitely see the movie. You'll either thank me -- or blame me. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  5. Oh, yum.....I have had this before and it is soooo good! One is definitely not enough. This reminds me that I also have had the Pink Elephant.......Thanks for sharing, I may be inclined to whip this up for Valentine's Day! :)

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    1. Hi Pat, I've not had a Pink Elephant -- need to try that. And this would be a lovely Valentine's Day drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  6. My favorite drink to order, but have never made it. Also love the gorgeous old fashion glass.

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    1. Hi Mabe, isn't that a pretty glass? From my great (or great, great) grandmother via my mother. Really tasty drink, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Booxy Ice Cream, count me in! Sounds amazing

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    1. Hi Raymund, pretty hard to resist boozy ice cream, isn't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  8. Kahlua is definitely a favourite :D
    And you had me at liquid ice cream!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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    1. Hi Uru, liquid ice cream is a pleasant thought, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.

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  9. You had me at liquid ice cream. As much as I've heard about this movie, I've never seen it and it plays all the time too! Of course now, I'm going to watch it. Great looking cocktail and history as usual John. I'm off to melt some ice cream...

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    1. Hi Nazneen, I know you're a real movie fan, and bet you'd really like it. Or not. ;-) But I think you would. Thanks for the comment.

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  10. Ooooh ahhhhh.... I think I need to go to Confession after reading this at 7.30am! Great recipe, love it! Cin cin.

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    1. Hi Lizzy, isn't this a fun drink? Really tasty. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  11. Boozy ice cream? Yes please! You make the COOLEST cocktails!

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    1. Hi Nagi, boozy ice cream is the best! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  12. Replies
    1. Hi Catherine, it really is! Definitely worth a try. Thanks for the comment.

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  13. My friend gifted me some homemade coffee liquer recently and this inspired me to have my first even White Russian. I don't know what I was waiting for because they are so good! Yours looks delicious!

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    1. Hi Amy homemade coffee liqueur sounds wonderful! And I'll bet it make a terrific White Russian. Thanks for the comment.

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  14. Drinkable desserts are fun-- and the boozy ones are a party in the mouth. Cheers to you, John!

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    1. Hi Denise, drinkable desserts are my favorite. ;-) And this is a fun one! Thanks for the comment.

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  15. As an aspiring high school student that came form a small town, I started imbibing at a young age. In my case White Russians were quite easy to consume and consume them I did. Until one day I realized the calorie count and switched. Unfortunately, I can't remember what I switched to. You see my good friend's father owned a bar and he was always trying out cocktails on me. I guess I was a happy consumer! An oh, did I feel so sophisticated drinking White Russians!

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    1. Hi Abbe, this drink really isn't diet food, is it? Awfully tasty, though. As you well know. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  16. I remember ordering these when out with my girlfriends---back when I had that 20 year old metabolism! It WAS like drinking melted ice cream---what a terrific throw back recipe :)

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    1. Hi Liz, don't we all wish we had those metabolism now! We don't, alas, so this sort of drink is just an occasional treat. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  17. Hi John,
    I made it here, so busy today..but I couldn't resist this post. I love the White Russian and most of the other ones you listed. This is my speed..But I know I have mentioned it before that my ultimate favorite is the Sombrero Cocktail. Anything with Kahlúa is tops with me. Just the other night on TCM they were playing "The Big Lebowski" movie. I remember that one. Jeff Bridges was excellent in that movie. Everytime I see your photo of the White Russian, I am salivating..I would love one right now. Fabulous post and as always Mrs. Riffs is funny! Have a nice rest of the week..Thanks for sharing..
    Dottie :)

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    1. Hi Dottie, the Sombrero is a good drink. As is this. ;-) And that's a fun movie, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.

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  18. Vodka, Kahlúa, and sweet cream and the drink tastes like boozy ice cream! What a cool cocktail!

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    1. Hi Ansh, it's very cool. One can chill out with it. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  19. We watched The Big Lebowski for the umptenth time last weekend. Love that movie! In fact, I've loved everything that the Coen Brothers have done. And oh how I love a white Russian! This was my drink back in the 80's, but had to stop drinking them because the bar seats were getting smaller. :) You're right that it's like drinking a boozy ice cream. Your White Russians look perfect John and makes me want to be sipping on one right now.

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    1. Hi MJ, the Coen brothers are wonderful, aren't they? And if you watched the movie for the umptenth time you're a real achiever! :D Thanks for the comment.

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  20. As soon as I saw the title of this post I thought "The Big Lebowski" which is one of my husband's all time favorite movies. Even though I love a White Russian, I think I might like one of those Barbara cocktails. Sounds good to me!

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    1. Hi Karen, this cocktail and that movie really do go together, don't they? Fun movie, tasty drink. Great combo! Thanks for the comment.

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  21. this creamy,dreamy good cocktail is so delicious...we will not mind having it solo for our daily calories too....where ever there is Kahlua...we are a cent percent yes too...this is certainly one favorite sip,thanks so much :-)

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    1. Hi Kumar, don't coffee-flavored liqueurs have a wonderful taste? Perfect in this drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  22. oh! I definitely LOVE this cocktail... so hard to stop ! It's like... drinking melting ice-cream.... Heaven!

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    1. Hi Marcela, you've nailed it: this really is melting ice-cream Heaven! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  23. This takes me back to my early twenties - in a wonderful way. It sure is like liquid ice cream.

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    1. HI Suzanne, a lot of people experienced this in their 20s! And then moved on to something else. But it's a good one to return to. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  24. We have a retro cinema within walking distance of where I live. Every now and then they do double features of classic films. Tomorrow night they are screening The Blues Brothers followed by The Big Lebowski. I can't wait. That opening scene where he tries to pay for a carton of milk with a cheque so he can make a White Russian totally sets up the audience for letting them know they're in for some great entertainment. I see your version of the White Russian is a lot more classy and you've used my favourite glass again xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, I always enjoy using your favorite glass in photos! And sounds like you have a great double feature to look forward to. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  25. I haven't had a White Russian in years but I have memories of fun times in Florida. Our bartender actually made them with ice cream--blended with the vodka and kalua. They really were delicious milkshakes. And the summer heat made them go down real easy. Whoa! I like your civilized version better. Thanks, Rocquie

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    1. Hi Rocquie, I haven't had this drink made with ice cream, but it sounds wonderful! And they do sound like milk shakes. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  26. Wow I had no idea that this was a 'new' drink. I first drank it back in that time period. But I rarely had cocktails. Now I am trying to remember who suggested it and where was I? I think I will have to hire some one to do a past life regression, because it's not coming to the surface. I love this drink. I had forgotten about it. So easy to make at home too.

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    1. Hi Carol, this is indeed easy to make. And drink. Maybe if you have 2 or 3 of these you'll remember when you first had this. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  27. A Lebowski fest? How fun! So interesting to hear that vodka is the most popular spirit in the US, and that the White Russian is a newish invention. I remember White Russians being pretty popular when I was in university (ahem).

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    1. Hi Beth, I always hear about this drink in the late fall because it makes a festive holiday drink. Or dessert. ;-) Otherwise, it rarely crops up on my radar scope. Fun drink, though, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.

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  28. These are what my mom used to drink a lot back in her partying days :) I should make a couple and toast with her!

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    1. Hi Laura, I'll bet your mom would enjoy having one of these again! And it'd be fun for the two of you to indulge in them. Thanks for the comment.

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    1. Hi Madonna, grownup desserts are the best kind. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  30. This seems like a sweet tasty drink. Never heard of that movie before!!! I should see it soon.

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    1. Hi Amira, this is quite sweet. We like the movie a lot -- but it's one people either love or hate, so be warned. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  31. I have heard about this cocktail for YEARS upon YEARS but I never knew what it was! LOL! Definitely not something I can drink but man it sounds tasty! ;)

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    1. Hi GiGi, it really is tasty! If you can't drink it, you can at least dream about it. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  32. Okay, now I have to go make myself a White Russian and watch The Big Lebowski. I love that movie and the cocktail. It is so good...and a bit too easy for me to drink.;) Thanks for sharing, John.

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    1. Hi Nancy, isn't that a great movie? Even better if you're drinking one of these as you watch it. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  33. I need it now and it's Friday morning:). I am big fan of creamy cocktails, oh well, any cocktail. You just reminded me of this fabulous drink. I need to see the movie, it's been on my list.
    Have a great weekend.

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    1. Hi Asha, it's a fun movie! We love it, but many don't -- it's one of those kind of films. Good thing it's Friday -- you can have a White Russian later today. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  34. Mrs. KR is a hoot and a holler! If I drank - this would be my favorite drink!

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    1. Hi Shashi, this is a good drink. And Mrs KR is all that, and more. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  35. It looks very creamy and I'm sure it does taste like ice cream. Thanks for sharing this!

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    1. Hi Peachy, it really is nice and creamy! And tasty. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  36. In a cocktail it doesn't really matter much and I too often reach for good and dependable Smirnoff. However, there are top-shelf vodkas that go the opposite way of the hyper-filtered Grey Goose types and try to leave a lot of the terroir in the bottle. Being in MO, you might be able to find Oyo vodka from Middle West Spirits. It's got aromas of "honey gelato and mineral driven finish". Look for it and let me know what you think. GREG

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    1. Hi Greg, thanks for the tip about Oyo. I haven't heard of it, and I'll look for it. Although I used to enjoy ice-cold vodka in the past, I really don't drink it much these days. So I'm definitely out of touch. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  37. When I first became of -- ahem -- legal age, this was one of my favorite drinks to enjoy. (Don't tell my parents! LOL) That's because it's like dessert in a glass.

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    1. Hi Carolyn, I think this is a favorite drink of a lot of young drinkers -- loads of flavor. :-) And don't worry, I won't tell your parents! Thanks for the comment.

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  38. I think I am going to love this cocktail. :D

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    1. Hi Taruna, you will, you will. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  39. HI John, I believe this is the first cocktail that I ever had, always a special place in my heart. Great dudespeak.

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    1. Hi Cheri, it's a really fun drink, isn't it? And tasty -- always a good thing in a cocktail. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  40. I had to laugh when I saw your post's title. My best friend's mum always order these. It matters not if we're in a wine bar, a beer bar, a microbrewery/restaurant, or a bowling alley for that matter. She'll have a White Russian please. :)

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    1. Hi Debra, this is one of my aunt's favorite drinks, too! Thanks for the comment.

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  41. I have all the ingredients and I'm making this, PRONTO :D

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    1. Hi Kiran, enjoy! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  42. Thanks for the Dude reference, I was hoping there would be one here. Great Sunday night smile.:)

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    1. Hi Pamela, the Dude abides. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  43. This was the first drink I ever had back in the day (when I was 21 of course) lol I have to try making one at home! I have all of the ingredients - perfect.

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    1. Hi Ashley, a lot of people have mentioned this was something they drank back in the day. No wonder -- it's a really tasty beverage! Thanks for the comment.

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  44. This gives me inspiration to use some marula I have stashed in place of kahlua. Though I suppose it'll take more than a rhyme to make such substitution work!

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    1. Hi Deepa, fun rhyme! And I suspect it'd take more than that to make it work. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  45. Oh John, I used to love this drink and somehow got lost...thanks for the post...I will sure have this tonight as I have all the three ingredients...looks delicious! Have a great week :)

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    1. Hi Juliana, I hadn't had one of these for ages before we did this post! Fun drink, isn't it? Enjoy! Thanks for the comment.

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  46. There's nothing like the great old standards for cocktails!

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    1. Hi Mary, isn't that the truth! And this is a goodie. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  47. Wow, sounds amazing and I LOVE that glass. So pretty!

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    1. Hi Chris, that's really a pretty glass, isn't it? And a lovely drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  48. Wow what's not to love about this drink. Now all you need is to add some ice cream. Sounds quite good!

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    1. Hi Vicki, ice cream would really take this over the top, wouldn't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  49. Wowza. This is what I need. I'm looking forward to Friday, I may just celebrate with this!

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    1. Hi Cathleen, this is a perfect Friday treat. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  50. Oh John....you are bringing back good memories for me! Though I haven't had a white Russian in forever. But I love sweet creamy drinks.....adult milkshakes I call them. And your beautiful photos are inviting me to make this again! Wonderful! : )

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    1. Hi Anne, this really is an adult milkshake! And a good one. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  51. Just the other day we watched a movie, it was a new one, where they mentioned the white russian. I was wondering how it was made, it definitely looks impressive, especially yours john! You should open up your own beach bar. :)

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    1. Hi Helene, a beach bar would be fun! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  52. It has been forever since I had a white russian! Just looking at your pictures reminded me how amazing they are! I'll have to pick up all the ingredients for the weekend!

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    1. Hi Lindsey, isn't this a fun drink? One I'm always happy to be reminded of. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  53. OMG!
    What a luscious drink! LOVE!!!

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    1. Hi Asmita, isn't this fun? And so tasty! Thanks for the comment.

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  54. One of my favorite cocktails! I do adore kahlua, and love enjoying this cocktail during the Winter weather. Beautiful, Take Care, Terra

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    1. Hi Terra, coffee has such a nice flavor, and the liqueur certainly adds a lot of this drink. A really fun drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  55. All of your Big Lebowski references are TOTALLY ON POINT: bravo! :) I love white russians (liquid boozy ice cream, indeed), and i love that you chose to use heavy cream in these versus plain milk: i know lots of people go with milk, and it just carries a different flavor and texture into the drink...i like the sweetness of the cream immensely.

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    1. Hi Shannon, BL is a fun movie, isn't it? We love it! And milk just doesn't cut it in this drink, IMO. Not even half-and-half; has to be cream. But that's just me. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  56. White Russian...OMG, haven't had one in ages. I need to make one tonight, this one looks a million bucks. I haven't watched BL, but I think I would like to make amends.

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    1. HI Minnie, we really like the BL, but it's one of those movies people either really like or are totally indifferent to. But it's worth a watch. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  57. Wow boozy ice cream! Must be a pretty creamy drink! I don't know the movie, but I'm curious about this drink. It seems like everyone knows but me! I didn't know vodka wasn't consumed long time ago. Interesting! I love that you always share some cocktail history and knowledge. :)

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    1. Hi Nami, vodka is everywhere these days! But it wasn't always so -- whiskey and gin used to be the favorites the first half of the 20th century. Thanks for the comment.

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  58. One of my favorites for after dinner. Love the flavors and the ease. No simple syrup or fruits or muddling required! I've made 'The Barbara' but did not know it was my namesake so thanks for the research!

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    1. Hi Barb, this is a great dessert drink -- loads of flavor and fun. The Barbara cocktail is wonderful. Fitting, no? :-) Thanks for the comment.

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