The 1970s Ingredient Swap That Created The Mudslide Cocktail

Who doesn't love a cocktail with a playful, edgy name, especially one that involves mud and sliding? Unless the mudslide moniker refers to a cruel act of nature, it's pretty safe to say it describes the drink's characteristic streams of mud-brown chocolate "sliding" through cream and sweet liqueurs. But not all the modern mudslide ingredients were present in its original incarnation.

In fact, it took a single-ingredient substitution to create what's now nicknamed the "adult milkshake." Long before mudslide was a gleam in the eye of Old Judd, a Grand Cayman bartender, its comparatively bland predecessor went by the staid name of white Russian (which was, in turn, a variation of the black Russian.) A quick transformation to mudslide occurred spontaneously, reportedly in response to a supply-chain issue — in order words, Old Judd ran out of a crucial ingredient for the white Russian, resulting in an abrupt twist to the family tree.

None of the three drinks are, or ever were, Russian in origin. The white and black Russians, as well as the mudslide cocktail, instead nod to the vodka alcohol that's often associated with the country. That ingredient steadfastly remains as the base of all three, but it's the mudslide that went its own way, taking the path less traveled — all because of a last-minute ingredient swap.

Doing it Old Judd's way

As the story goes, a customer walked into the Wreck Bar & Grill on Grand Cayman Island sometime in the 1970s. The bar, which occupies a prime spot within the Rum Point Club on the northern side of the island, is known for dishing out local favorite fares such as traditional pork jerk and fish battered in Caybrew beer, marketed as the national beer of the Cayman Islands.

But this customer simply wanted a white Russian cocktail, which typically consists of vodka, Kahlúa, and heavy cream. As fate would have it, or at least as far as tall tales allow, the bar refrigerator was missing an essential white Russian ingredient: the cream. So Old Judd slipped in some Irish cream in its place — immediately birthing the mudslide cocktail.

Modern recipes for this thick, sweet, dessert-like drink generally keep the vodka along with a coffee liqueur such as Kahlúa and the added Bailey's Irish cream or a similar brand. However, variations do exist, including keeping the cream in the mix, making your own liqueurs, or adding ice cream for the "boozy milkshake" reputation. 

When that happens, it typically answers to the name of a frozen mudslide and features varying ice cream flavors and chocolate sauces sliding through layers of creamy deliciousness.