"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com – brought to you by Absolut, Avion, Fireball, Pama, Red Stag and 2 Gingers – is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun articles on bars and clubs – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews, the results of our Best of Bars poll and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!
I've been visiting bars in Milwaukee for the better part of eight years, and finding a really good white russian always seemed to elude me. In this case, the Dude could no longer abide – I had to find the best one in the Cream City. So, I asked you for some suggestions, and set out to find it. I did.
A little background first. My favorite movie is "The Big Lebowski" and honestly, it turned me on to the cocktail. I'm not a beer guy and while I've come to really enjoy an Milwaukee Old Fashioned of late, the white russian had been my drink of choice since college.
While it seems like a simple drink to make (it contains only vodka, Kahlua and cream) you'd be surprised how often it's messed up. And honestly, it's been screwed up enough that I basically stopped ordering it.
But, the spirit of the Dude is strong, and I had to find some good ones. Apparently, I had been looking in the wrong places. I received five nominations, and I had never been to any of them.
There was one "rule" in that the drink had to remain true to the white russian cocktail, so no "blind" or "dirty" or "black" russians allowed. After all, they have their own names for a reason.
So, without further ado, here is the breakdown of the best white russians in the city:
Bartender: Anselm Inmam
2 oz. Rehorst Vodka
1 oz. Valentine Coffee Liqueur
1 oz. cream
The Great Lakes Distillery can only pour what they make on site, so they steep Valentine’s Coffee in vodka for three hours, filter it, and then add a simple syrup. So, they don’t use Kahlua. It was a lighter color than I expected with a nice coffee taste, but it was not overpowering. There was no bitterness to it, going down or after you swallow – even though you do taste it in the back of your throat. A nice change was that it wasn't syrupy like Kahlua (or a mix) can sometimes be.
t3. Matty’s Bar
Bartender: Wes King
1 ½ oz. Absolut vodka
1-1 ½ oz. Kahlua
4 ½ creamers
Wes makes a more traditional version of this cocktail, though some additional cream lightens the color and lessens the impact of Kahlua – so you’re not in danger of the after taste or bite that you can get sometimes. It’s smooth enough that you’ll definitely order another and not feel too overwhelmed by the taste.
t3. The Bottle
Bartender: Eulia Kazachenko
1 ½ oz. Stoli vodka
1 ½ oz. Kahlua
1 ½ oz. cream
Eulia, famously, is the "White Russian" you get if you initially ask for one at The Bottle, and she definitely knows how to make you a good drink. She's very traditional in her pours and feels the best tasting Caucasian is one that is equal parts.
Bartender: Katie Rose
1 ½ oz. Rehorst vodka
1 ½ oz. Kahlua
Spoon poured Crystal Ball Farms organic cream
Burnhearts likes to stock local and organic products (if it's up to their standards) and Crystal Ball cream from Osceola fits that bill. That organic cream, which Rose spoon pours by sight (it's about an ounce), is a great touch to this cocktail. It's a heavier liquid, and it helps create a pretty looking drink when it's served. Though the lighting is dim at Burnhearts, once stirred it looks a bit darker than usual. It's a very traditional combination, but the local flavoring makes it stand out.
Bartender: Dalton Beyer
2 oz. Vincent van Gogh Double Espresso vodka
¾ oz. Kahlua
Whipped cream, 2-3 rotations in the mixer
1 1/2 creamers
Shaken to liquefy
Sometimes, newer is better. This take on the white russian was fantastic, and the best of a great bunch. The whipped cream creates a frothy pour and and the flavored vodka creates a hint of a chocolate flavor more than espresso. There is no bite or no thick aftertaste, either. It's very smooth, easy to drink and has a nice, light brown color. This can be a dangerous one, though, so sip slowly and enjoy a burger!
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.