When The Big Lebowski was released in theaters in 1998, it did something for cocktail culture that few thought possible: It single-handedly brought the White Russian back from the dead. And that was no easy feat, considering the fact that, at the same time, pioneers of the cocktail revolution were reintroducing much classier beverages like the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned to the bar scene.
Invented in 1949 by barman Gustave Tops at the Hotel Metropole in Brussels, the White Russian experienced great popularity throughout the 1960s and ‘70s. But then, sadly, the creamy caffeinated drink fell out of fashion. It was considered gauche until Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski made it cool again.
The Dude wasn’t picky about his White Russians. He often drank them in a bowling alley with non-dairy creamer (which he dubbed a Caucasian) and couldn’t give a damn about using a craft coffee liqueur. Modern day bartenders, on the other hand, are a little bit more particular and a lot craftier. Just as they resurrected pre-Prohibition-style cocktails from the dead in the early 2000s, so too are bartenders now giving once tacky drinks the renaissance treatment. And the White Russian is leading the way. Here, three bartenders share their riffs on the classic mix of vodka, Kahlúa and heavy cream. Whip up one of these White Russian variations for the modern dude, and learn to love the classic in a whole new way.