Bushwacker Vs. Mudslide: The Difference Between The Boozy Cocktails

While there's always a place for a sleek martini or stiff Manhattan, cocktails can offer a more casual experience, too. Throw a thoughtful selection of sweet ingredients into a shaker, and a joyful dessert-like sling emerges. Sure, such creations may not have the delicate flavor complexity of a high-end bar's offering, but that doesn't mean they aren't both fun and tasty to consume.

For two sweet and strong drinks with creamy consistencies, turn to the Bushwacker and mudslide. Both are riffs on a White Russian, combining a strong boozy backbone with varying creams, coffee liqueur, and other additions. Their resultant texture is thick and rich, and they do well with a sweet topping, like a shaving of chocolate or a maraschino cherry. Yet, even though they may offer similar experiences, their exact constituents and drinking experiences are distinct. So, let's dive into the details of these richly-flavored sweet drinks; they're both sippers worthy of your attention.

What is a bushwacker?

The bushwacker is based on a White Russian but gives it a more Tiki-influenced spin. It builds off of a rum base, which is paired with coffee liqueur (most frequently Kahlúa), along with crème de cacao, whole milk, and cream of coconut all blended together with ice. Some of the numerous variations include a small amount of triple sec, Bailey's, or amaretto liqueurs. The toppings are reminiscent of a milkshake: dark chocolate syrup, maraschino cherries, or grated nutmeg.

No surprise, then, that such a festive drink's origins trace to a vacation hotspot — a bar called Ship's Store & Sapphire Pub in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The first version of the cocktail was crafted with vodka and then later revised by a bartender in Pensacola, Florida to include its signature rum base. From the 1980s onward, the drink spread with incredible popularity around the Gulf Coast, with bars filling frozen slushy machines with their own spin. Today, the cocktail remains a regional favorite, although it hasn't achieved quite the same popularity elsewhere.

What is a mudslide?

The mudslide emerged from similar origins, a vacation-focused cocktail created on Grand Cayman Island in the 1970s. Its ingredient list is even more similar to a White Russian than the bushwacker, retaining the vodka spirit base, coffee liqueur, and heavy cream but also adding some Baileys Irish cream into the mix. Some also add ice cream to take the drink even further into dessert territory. For a mud-like topping, many garnish the cocktail with shaved or crumbled chocolate bits or drizzle chocolate syrup.

A large part of the mudslide's appeal is its consistency. The combination of three creamy components lends it a rich texture, which is amplified with frothiness when utilizing a cocktail shaker. Some bartenders choose to craft a more milkshake-like creation by blending the drink with ice. Or, for a more liquidy and drinkable rendition, the heavy cream is omitted, and the mudslide is served over ice. As a result, the drink's texture is open to manipulation for distinct versions.

The mudslide is a creamier, less tropical drink than the bushwacker

Undeniably, both cocktails offer a similar drinking experience: Sweet, dessert-like concoctions propped up by their boozy bases. They overlap in their coffee liqueur addition, a strongly flavored component that offers a sweet, alcoholic, and rich mouthfeel. However, from there, the two beverages involve components that lead to different experiences.

For one, there's the bushwacker's rum base. Such a spirit inflects a tropical feel, furthering the fruity notes with molasses undertones. Conversely, mudslide's use of vodka imparts the opposite effect: a dry bite that counterbalances the sweet elements. The bushwacker furthers its island-born character with the use of coconut cream, while the addition of creme de cacao inflects chocolatey notes. Once all blended up — often with ice — the result is a little closer to a piña colada than its White Russian inspiration

On the other hand, the mudslide's sweet flavors hit less bright notes, instead aiming for a luscious and creamy mouthfeel. Such an effect is achieved through the use of heavy cream rather than milk and is further accentuated by Bailey's Irish Cream. When shaken, this results in a drink that's more like a rich post-dinner sipper than the bushwacker's dose of poolside frozen fun.