The white Russian remains.
If this phrase means anything to you, it’s probably because you know the White Russian as the favorite cocktail of a certain Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, the protagonist of the excellent cult comedy of the Coen brothers. The Great Lebowski. “The Dude”, as it says in the movie, “remains”. In context, that means he calms down, goes with the flow and the same could be said of the cocktail. The White Russian has been pushed into culture for the past 70 years or so, abused and appreciated, forgotten and celebrated, and through it all, like The Dude himself, he persists with a Zen serenity. He lives.
It was invented somewhere around 1949 we think, just like something to do with vodka, mind at the time still an alien curiosity. The original was the Black Russian, just vodka and coffee liqueur, and soon there was the White Russian, for which someone had the pretty obvious idea of ââadding milk. There is, funnily enough, nothing Russian about the drink, the first cocktail joke – the vodka obviously has an Eastern Bloc vibe, but America’s most popular vodka, Smirnoff, has been distilled in Connecticut and had been, by that time, for almost a decade. Regardless, the mixture was used to sell vodka and coffee liquor and besides, ordering a âWhite Russianâ in the middle of the Cold War was delicious and harmless subversive pleasure. Calling him the white person from Connecticut wouldn’t have been so fun.
It was popular in the ’60s and’ 70s, but by the ’80s it was outdated: too sweet, too creamy, and too basic. Nightclubs weren’t going to start stocking cartons of milk. It seemed like the White Russian was destined to become one of those forgotten cocktails that is never consumed by someone’s great aunt on special occasions and indeed settled into this inglorious life. for about 15 years. It would take Jeff Bridges’ Lebowski to crawl in a jelly dress and sandals, making white Russians out of a carton of milk bought with a post-dated check for $ 0.69, for the cocktail to take on new life.
And what a new life he has. Every bowling alley in the known universe now features White Russians, or would if they knew what was good for them. There are Lebowski themed bars all over the world, from Dresden to Glasgow to Reykjavik, all with White Russian themed menus. There are Great Lebowski watch parties, with friends or in bars, and they always serve the same thing. And why not? The White Russian doesn’t ask for much. It’s alcoholic coffee and cream, basically a Frappuccino vodka, sweet and creamy and so simple it could be brewed by a gorilla. No matter how distorted the measurements get, it will still be good enough. Some recipes call for whipping the cream in half, layering it on top and garnishing with grated nutmeg. With respect, I have the impression that these recipes are missing the essentials. The White Russian is not to be taken seriously. This is a joke. It turns out it’s just delicious.
I like to think that is why it was chosen as the Dude’s favorite drink, and why it is such a perfect choice. Before the fame conferred by the film itself, the cocktail was just one more good joke in a story full of jokes. Does this guy drink white Russians? However, the cocktail is not a question of status, glassware or elegance. It is neither masculine nor feminine. It is not complex and it does not require special tools or preparation. It’s good for bowlers, nihilists, urban athletes, or anyone craving something creamy and delicious. It’s always there for you, whenever you feel like launching a set. He lives.
a white russian
Add all the ingredients to a highball glass with ice, stir briefly to incorporate, or if not empty, ice and everything, into another container, then pour it back, to mix. Don’t shake. Do not garnish. Drink and enjoy.
NOTES ON INGREDIENTS
Coffee liqueur: Kahlua is the classic and works surprisingly well, given its relatively mild coffee flavor. Tia Maria is acceptable, but not as good. 3rd wave hipsters like Mr. Black and St. George NOLA make absolutely outstanding Espresso Martinis but are too much for this drink (a Mr. Black and a Heavy White Russian cream are bitter and pretty mirthless). My absolute favorite coffee liqueur to use here is Borghetti Espresso Liqueur, from Milan. It’s a bit specialized – you probably won’t find it in the supermarket – but it has the body and sweetness of Kahlua but a deeper flavor. It’s amazing. If you like White Russians, or are planning a night out around them, this is worth researching.
Vodka: While the particular brand of vodka for a cocktail usually doesn’t matter much, it is extremely true for the White Russian. The brand is no less important. Use anything.
You can mess around with other spirits if you feel like it – aged rum comes to mind – but once you start playing with it, the simple magic of White Russians begins to evaporate and you find yourself tweaking. and garnish more than you might want. Basically everything except vodka makes it a different cocktail with different rules. I would just use vodka.
Milk cream: This is a bit of personal taste. Personally, I find whole milk acceptable but too thin, and heavy cream acceptable but too rich. Half and half is, as the name suggests, the perfect compromise (if you’re using heavy cream, maybe go back a bit).
Salt: optional, but when making cocktails that incorporate protein or fat I like to add a little pinch of salt, which enhances the flavor and also serves to alleviate some of the bitterness of the coffee and alcohol .