A perfect evening drink: the White Russian

One of our esteemed guests asked me recently while chatting what my favourite cocktail is. On the moment, the question actually took me by surprise, as I hesitated between pleasure of savouring and pleasure of preparing. And while I enjoy margarita for its refreshing taste, I do feel that the White Russian deserves a special place for the unexpected mix and balance it reaches.

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White Russian – Photo Charles-Antoine Dubois

This variation of the Black Russian, a vodka-based cocktail, appeared in California in the mid-1960s is designed for late afternoons or evenings – you may remember it as the favourite drink of the Duke, the main character of the 90’s iconic movie The Big Lebowski. It distinguishes itself by allying two very different ingredients: milk and vodka – a difficult bet as vodka’s strong taste is initially bound to cover any flavour from the milk. The trick lies in a third ingredient, coffee liquor (or Kahlúa), and using the milk (or cream, a commonly used variation) as a base to marry and combine these two strong spirits

Here is the recipe:

  • 2oz (6cl) of vodka
  • 1oz (3cl) of coffee liquor
  • Either 1oz (3cl) of fresh milk, or 1oz (3cl) of fresh cream, or half of each

In a shaker, mix crushed ice and the 3 ingredients. Shake for over 10 seconds and serve in a chilled whiskey glass. If using cream, shaking it to thicken it before mixing the drink is also common. For an unmixed version, mix vodka and Kahlúa and pour in a glass filled with ice, top with a large splash of cream (easier to maintain separate layers) and stir slowly, though the mixed version tends to be more popular.

The White Russian, combining two stronger alcohols with a stable, thick base to slow its dilution by the melting ice cubes, is designed to be savoured at a leisurely pace. I advise it to our guests as an after-dinner or a terrace drink, a perfect cocktail to accompany a nice evening and pleasant conversation. Enjoy!

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