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In Bars & Clubs Commentary

Dalton Beyer at Saz's State House pours out his take on the white russian in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee's 5 best white russians

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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:

5. Great Lakes Distillery

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.

1. Saz's State House

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!


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