The white Russian falls into the creamy dessert cocktail camp. A simple libation with only three main ingredients, a white Russian has true staying power, keeping most of its consistency and flavor as its ice melts. Picking the right type of cream for your white Russian can help to enhance its flavor and give you exactly what you want.
Cream of the Crop
More traditional recipes call for cream in a white Russian -- usually equal parts vodka, coffee liqueur and cream served on the rocks. Light cream, which weighs in at about 20 percent milk fat, is typically the go-to because whipping and heavy creams will overpower the liquors' flavors. If you only have one of the heavier creams, cut back by a fourth or even a third of the cream for a more flavorful drink.
Half of This, Half of That
Many dining and drinking establishments substitute light cream with half-and-half, which is half cream and half milk, because it is usually kept on hand for coffee service. Half-and-half contains less milk fat, about 12 percent, and will not drown the other flavors. When making a white Russian with half-and-half, fill an ice-filled highball with vodka and coffee liqueur -- either at a 1-to-1 or 2-to-1 ratio -- and then top with half-and-half.
Milk will do in a pinch because it's thin enough that it won't overpower the drink's flavors. White Russians made with milk will be more watery than when mixed with other thicker dairy products, so mix the drink with higher fat content milks like whole and reduced-fat milk. Because milk has less milk fat than half-and-half and cream, white Russians made with milk might taste watered down. A quick remedy is to add more of each liquor.
Ice Scream, You Scream
Mixing a white Russian with vanilla ice cream transforms the cocktail into a tasty dessert drink, or actually just a dessert. Because ice cream is so thick, it's best to mix in a blender with a third or at most a half of the amount of other dairy products -- like a 2-to-2-to-1 or 2-to-2-to-1.25 ratio. One of the best things about mixing the drink with ice cream is all the different possible flavors, so don't be afraid to experiment.