White Russians are truly magical, even if you’re not a fan of The Big Lebowski. For the coffee lovers among us (present company included), the idea of adding a little caffeine to happy hour is more than just a little appealing—it’s genius.
The typical combo of coffee liqueur, vodka and cream (or half-and-half) can sometimes end up a little heavy or cloying, so I came up with a recipe for a more subtle, DIY Kahlua that can be customized to your preferred level of sweetness.
You can also adjust the amount, type and strength of coffee used. Then mix it up into a delicious White Russian recipe.
The quality of the coffee, vodka and vanilla is extra important for this drink. It’s worth it to splurge on a high-end coffee.
If there’s a variety from a local roaster you just can’t live without, go ahead and brew up an extra pot to use for cocktails—and don’t skimp on the vodka either since cheap stuff may curdle your drink.
Once you have your liqueur ready, it’s time to mix up a White Russian. Instead of cream or half-and-half, try using a coffee creamer—they come in a variety of yummy flavors.
I like to use classic French Vanilla creamer, although Hazelnut and White Chocolate Macadamia make for a decadent, dessert-worthy drink.
If you’re not a fan of creamy drinks (or if you don’t do dairy), the homemade Kahlua is excellent on its own over ice.
Or you can feel free to substitute plain or flavored almond, coconut or soy milk/creamer for the flavored creamer. I’ve tried it with Hazelnut Silk soy creamer, and it was great.
White Russian Recipe with DIY Kahlua FAQ
Can I make this recipe dairy free?
Absolutely! You can substitute the flavored creamer used in this recipe for plain or flavored almond, coconut or soy milk/creamer. I’ve made it with Hazelnut Silk soy creamer and loved it.
Can I just drink the homemade coffee liqueur on its own?
If creamy drinks aren’t really your thing—or if you don’t have everything on hand to make a White Russian—the homemade Kahlua is delicious all on its own. Just pour over ice and enjoy!
Can I customize the strength of the homemade coffee liquor?
Yes, and that’s why I love this recipe—it’s easy to tailor to your preferences. I love a strong, bold coffee flavor, so I typically just brew an extra few cups in the morning using beans from my favorite local roaster and set it aside to make this recipe.
While you can adjust the amount, type and strength of coffee used, I would suggest using a high-end, quality coffee. It’s worth the splurge!
How long will the coffee liquor keep?
White Russians with Homemade Coffee Liqueur (Kahlua)
- Heat proof glass or mug
- 1/3 to 1/2 pounds light brown sugar depending on desired sweetness
- 3 cups strong hot brewed coffee
- 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup high-quality vodka
- 2 ounces high-quality vodka
- 1 ounce homemade Kahlua
- 1/2 to 1 ounce whole milk, half and half or heavy cream
- Brew a fresh pot of strong, hot coffee. My coffee pot calls for 2 tablespoons grounds for every 5 ounces water, so I upped it to 3 tablespoons per 5 ounces water (or about 12 tablespoons total)
- Spoon the sugar into the hot coffee and stir until it's completely dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.
- Add the vanilla.
- Then the vodka. Stir again.
- Mix Kahlua with vodka in a lowball glass over ice. Slowly drizzle in milk or half and half.
White Russian with DIY Kahlua
- 2 ounces high-quality vodka
- 1 ounce DIY Kahlua see above recipe
- 1/2 to 1 ounce milk, half & half or coffee creamer
- Mix vodka and coffee liqueur (or cold press) in a lowball glass over ice.
- Slowly drizzle in creamer.