Welcome to A Film Dishtory, where we tell the story of the most iconic servings in the history of cinema. Today, we start with The Big Lebowski ’s White Russian.
The Big Lebowski (1998) is kind of a nostalgic flick. I’ll put this better: thanks to The Big Lebowski’s utterly nostalgic characters, the Coen Brothers’ cult film is not nostalgic at all. From John Goodman’s Vietnam veteran Walter Sobchak to stuck-in-the-Sixties Jeffrey Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) and out-of-time big-time bowler Jesus Quintana (John Turturro) – the Coens gave birth to an ecosystem that never strides forward and cherishes the ways of a hypothetically heroic past. In The Big Lebowski’s retro-fantasia, only one person runs towards her own, self-shaped future, and that is Joanne Moore’s turbo-feminist artist&MuchMore daughter of Mr. Lebowski, Maude.
So it does not come as a surprise to learn that The Dude’s best-liked drinks are creamy, thick White Russians served by the dozen. With layers of milky waves topping the alcoholic foot of the glass, those post-dinner cocktails dominate every alcoholphile with a kink for vintage Stuff and postmodern intertextuality. Those ones are the Dudes. And Dudes abide.
The origin of White Russians hides away in the book of One Thousand and One Tipsy Nights. Culturally-specific denominations notwithstanding, White Russians do not partake in the Sovietic spirit at all – except for the obvious fact that their #1 liquor part is vodka. But back in the American Thirties, it more than sufficed to create fancy names for the latest talk of the town. It was back in 1930 when the first edition of The Savoury Cocktail Book came out. Turbulent times enough for a country still ripped apart by the thorns of Prohibition. In the Savoury book, one cocktail made out of vodka was named The Russian. Now, let’s jump to Bruxelles, 1949, where Metropole barman Gustave Tops codifies the recipes of both the Black and the White Russian for the first time. The ingredients are Kahlua (coffee liquor), vodka, perhaps a handful of ice cubes. To differentiate the White Russian from his twin brother, Tops pours a hearty dose of cream into the glass. There you go.
Grand, opaque, obnoxiously sweet, and pretty heavy on your stomach. White Russians are opulent drinks not to be trifled with. But after The Big Lebowski brought to the fore our acquired love of openly subtle quotations and derivative lifestyles, White Russians became the home of the Hipster as we all drank in memory of the times of His Dudeness. Skip forward to 2020 and White Russians suit nothing but fatuous romances. You cannot have your cake and eat it all. You cannot watch The Big Lebowski and find genuine, obnubilated joy sipping your fourth White Russian on a chill workday evening.
For the outrageously fashionables – Pinterest inspos to get you started on next-level White Russians: