Although nearly every drinking establishment that offers the white Russian follows the same ingredient proportions — 2 parts vodka to 1 part each coffee liqueur and cream — you often find minor variations in composition, but so minor only the most discerning palates notice them. Most of these variances are caused by the constraints of a professional bar. When making the perfect white Russian at home, you aren’t limited as a pro is by factors such as product cost and quota — all you need is to have the proper measuring utensils and the proper ingredients.
Perfect by Weight
The white Russian is synonymous with vodka, cream and Kahlua — but there are variances with the master recipe bartenders follow. The explanation for variation is this: When bartenders have a customer rush, they aren’t as exacting with measurements as they are when they have more time — and measuring by volume, as is the common method, isn’t exact. But measuring by weight is. So making a perfect white Russian requires measuring the ingredient weight with a digital scale, and only a doting home mixologist has the time to compose cocktails using a digital scale.
Fill a cocktail shaker half-full of crushed ice, and then place it on a digital scale set to the Ounces setting. Next, tare the scale so it reads “0.0.”
To the cocktail shaker, add 1 1/2 ounces of vodka, 3/4 ounces of Kahlua and 3/4 ounces of heavy cream. Shake the White Russian and pour the drink into a chilled old-fashioned glass.
Perfect By Volume
Angled stainless-steel measuring utensils measure ingredients by volume more precisely than plastic utensils. Stainless-steel measuring cups have graduations etched on the interior — plastic cups have them etched on the exterior.
With stainless-steel measuring cups, you see the where the edge of the curved surface of the liquid, known as the meniscus, meets the graduation mark. With plastic measuring utensils, you have to check the graduation mark on the exterior of the cup and the level of the liquid on the interior of the cup and decide between them as you pour. The angle of the measuring cup makes pouring an ingredient into the serving glass easier.
To make a perfect white Russian using stainless-steel measuring cups, first fill a chilled old-fashioned glass with ice cubes. Then, measure 1 1/2 ounces of vodka into a stainless-steel measuring cup and pour it over the ice. Next, measure and pour 3/4 ounces of Kahlua over the ice. Lastly, measure 3/4 ounces of heavy cream and slowly pour it over the surface of the drink to allow it to float. Rinse and dry the measuring cup after each pour.
Less-Expensive White Russian
Make a less-expensive white Russian using less-expensive ingredients: Instead of using top-shelf vodka use well vodka; instead of Kahlua, use an off brand coffee liqueur — but always follow the same proportions by volume, or weigh the ingredients to create a balanced taste.
White Russian Variations
The foremost white Russian variation is the black Russian. A black Russian consists of 3 parts vodka to 2 parts coffee liqueur. For example, measure 3 ounces of vodka and 2 ounces of coffee liqueur. Pour the black Russian over a glass filled with crushed ice.
References and ResourcesEsquire: White Russian
Kahlua: Kahlua White Russian
Fine Art Bartending Vancouver: White Russian Variations
Serious Eats: Cocktail 101: Measuring Utensils