The very first cocktail I ever tried was a White Russian. Up until that time I’d only ever drank wine or beer so, while standing in line at the bar at a friend’s wedding reception, I got brave and decided I would try one of these wacky-named concoctions everyone seemed to be drinking. Completely clueless about what to ask for, I decided I’d just repeat whatever the guy in front of me ordered. I watched as he stepped up to the bar and asked for, “Another White Russian pleeezzh,” with a slow blink and a confident swagger. He walked away zig-zaggedly with a glass of what looked like milk… ice cubes clinking merrily as he stirred his drink with a little black straw. This was a revelation to me because up until that point I thought cocktails were only red, blue or clear. When it was my turn to order I asked, “What’s in a White Russian?” The bartender said, “Vodka, Kahlúa and cream.” I said, “Oh, ok. And uh, what’s ‘Kahlúa?'” He explained it was a coffee-flavored liqueur. Since my favorite ice cream flavor is coffee, I guessed this would be something I’d probably like, but I was wrong. I instantly LOVED it and it quickly became my go to “comfort” cocktail. A few years later in 1998 the movie The Big Lebowski was released to theatres starring Jeff Bridges as “The Dude,” the laid-back loveable hero and faithful White Russian sipper. The film’s release brought widespread revived popularity of this cocktail, especially among fans of this now cult classic favorite.
The White Russian evolved from the 1960’s Black Russian cocktail, made with just Kahlúa and Vodka. The name of course assumes the vodka is from Russia, but vodka of other nationalities will work just as well. Kahlúa is of Mexican origin and was introduced to the world in the 1930s, and finally exported to the US in 1962. This staple liqueur of bars worldwide is rum-based, sweetened with cane sugar and flavored with Arabica coffee and vanilla. The White Russian is often preferred by people who claim they don’t like the taste of alcohol since the creamy sweetness makes it seem more of a dessert than a cocktail. For this reason, with 3 oz of hard booze in each glass, care must be taken to leisurely sip this easy-drinking potion or you’ll be curled up on the couch snoring with the cats in no time.
In an inspired cocktail-tinkering mood, Paul recently added Bénédictine to the last batch we made, which adds an aromatic herbal-infused French accent to this classic. We don’t know for sure if The Dude would approve of this variation but since at one point in the movie when assembling his favorite drink and, lacking milk or cream, he resorted to powdered non-dairy creamer… we’d like to think he’d abide.
- 2 oz Vodka
- ¾ oz Kahlúa
- ¼ oz Bénédictine
- Light Cream or Milk
- Cocktail Straw (optional)
- Pour vodka, Kahlúa and Bénédictine over 3 ice cubes in an old-fashioned or rocks glass. Top off with light cream and serve immediately, without stirring, keeping the layers separated. (Alternatively, stir gently to mix all ingredients together before serving.) Add a cocktail straw if desired, for slow sipping.