Like liquid ice cream
Anyone who’s seen The Big Lebowski has heard about the White Russian Cocktail. The key character in that movie—a slacker known as The Dude—drinks them often. In fact, sometimes White Russians seem to provide 100% of his daily calories.
It’s not hard to see why. With its mix of vodka, Kahlúa, and sweet cream, the drink tastes like boozy ice cream. One sip, and you’ll agree: This drink abides.
Recipe: The White Russian Cocktail
Although vodka is now the most popular spirit in the US, it wasn’t always this way. Before the late 1950s, most drinkers in the US never consumed vodka. And it wasn’t until the 1970s that vodka’s popularity really started to take off. So many of the drinks that call for vodka are of fairly recent origin—including the White Russian. No one is quite sure when (or where) the drink was invented, but it probably dates back to the mid-1960s (or perhaps a few years before).
This drink calls for 2 parts vodka to 1 part each Kahlúa and heavy cream. It’s usually served over ice in a rocks (Old-Fashioned) glass. But if you prefer, you can serve it “up” in a cocktail glass.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to make, and serves one.
- 2 ounces vodka
- 1 ounce Kahlúa (or another coffee liqueur of your choice)
- 1 ounce heavy cream
- Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Shake vigorously for a good 30 seconds (longer shaking helps make the cream foamy).
- Strain into an ice-filled rocks (Old-Fashioned) glass. Serve with straws.
- Any name-brand vodka will work in this drink. We generally use Smirnoff because we can’t tell the difference between it and the fancier brands, especially in a cocktail. (Plain vodka is tasteless. When people distinguish “flavor” differences among vodkas, they’re probably picking up on how well filtered a particular brand is. Cheaper vodkas may seem harsher because they haven’t been filtered to the same degree as more expensive ones.)
- Because plain vodka doesn’t have a flavor profile of its own, it’s the ideal spirit for cocktails in which other flavors dominate—as the cream and Kahlúa do in this drink.
- Traditionally, vodka has been made throughout northern, central, and eastern Europe—but most people in the US think of it as Russian. As a result, early vodka-based drinks often were given Russian-associated names. Probably the first vodka drink to take the US by storm was the Moscow Mule (which contains lime juice and ginger beer, in addition to vodka).
- The White Russian Cocktail was preceded by an earlier drink called simply the Russian Cocktail (which is equal parts vodka, gin, and crème de cacao).
- Another riff off the Russian Cocktail is the Barbara Cocktail (also known as the Russian Bear). It contains 2 parts vodka, 1 part crème de cacao, and 1 part cream.
- There’s also a cocktail called the Black Russian (2 parts vodka, 1 part Kahlúa).
- A vodka-less drink in a similar vein is the Sombrero Cocktail—equal parts Kahlúa and cream.
- Another, related drink combines equal parts brandy and Kahlúa. It’s called the Dirty Mother (or Mudder). Who gets to dream up these names?
- When The Big Lebowski was released in 1998, it didn’t make much of a splash. The reviews were mixed, and the movie didn’t fare particularly well at the box office. But over the years, it’s become a cult classic. And like many cult films, it’s a movie that people tend to either love or hate. Count us among the lovers.
- The Big Lebowski was written, produced, and directed by the Coen brothers—Joel and Ethan. They say it was inspired in part by the writings of mystery novelist Raymond Chandler.
- If you haven’t seen the movie, here are some background tidbits about it: The Dude (played by Jeff Bridges) is an unemployed slacker living in Los Angeles. Other than drinking White Russians, his chief interests are bowling and hanging out. The Dude refers to White Russian Cocktails as “Caucasians.”
- In the movie, The Dude’s real name is Jeffrey Lebowski. He’s attacked by a pair of thugs who are trying to retrieve money owed by Lebowski’s wife. But The Dude isn’t married (that’s way too ambitious for a slacker). The thugs have made a mistake—they confused The Dude with another Jeffrey Lebowski. This Lebowski—The Big Lebowski—is the opposite of a slacker. He’s obsessed with achieving. And he’s rich. Or so it appears.
- During the course of the movie, the Big Lebowski’s wife is kidnapped and Big hires The Dude to deliver a ransom. Then things get weird (that is, even weirder than they were to begin with). But we won’t spoil it for you—because if you haven’t seen this movie yet, you owe it to yourself.
“Careful, Man, There’s a Beverage Here”
“Did you know there’s an annual Lebowski Fest”? asked Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “This year it’s being held in Los Angeles on March 13th and 14th.”
“As a matter of fact, I did know that,” I said. “The attendees call themselves ‘Achievers.’”
“I think that’s supposed to be like, ironic,” said Mrs K R, using her best Dudespeak.
“Yeah, since they spend their time drinking White Russians,” I said. “And hanging out.”
“They bowl, too,” said Mrs K R. “In fact, part of the event takes place in a bowling alley.”
“And of course they watch the movie,” I said.
“Sounds heavy,” said Mrs K R. “I may need another White Russian to deal with it.”
Mrs K R, Achiever.
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