Marisa Chafetz / Supercall

3 White Russian Variations for the Modern Dude


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.

Marisa Chafetz / Supercall
The White Russian is already a perfect brunch cocktail. Between the sweet, creamy flavor and the coffee liqueur, it makes for a pretty solid hair-of-the-dog remedy. But throw in a measure of robust, anise-flavored sambuca and straight, chilled coffee, and you have yourself a drink that could wake the dead. “The Dude’s Delight is a drink for someone who likes a White Russian but craves a little something more,” says bartender Tim Webb of New Orleans favorite DTB. “The sambuca adds a level of complexity that will help you wake up in the morning and/or is a perfect end to a hearty meal.” While Webb prefers St. George Coffee Liqueur and Luxardo Sambuca, this recipe will work with whatever brands of liqueurs you prefer—or just happen to have around.

The Essentials

coffee liqueur
Marisa Chafetz / Supercall
When two iconic East Coast institutions decide to collaborate on a cocktail, the result is pure magic. Ask any coffee snob in New York, Philly or Washington D.C. how they feel about La Colombe, and they’ll likely gush about their expertly-roasted beans and unique caffeinated concoctions. But even we’ll admit there’s one thing missing from their drinks: booze. That all changed when shopping mecca Barneys New York asked the coffee company to collaborate on a cocktail for restaurant Freds at Barneys Downtown. This twist on the White Russian swaps out vodka for tropical rum and adds hazelnut liqueur to the mix for an extra nutty finish. With La Colombe Vanilla Draft Latte as the base, this cocktail is our new go-to when we need a swift kick of caffeine or want to drink our dessert after an especially fancy lunch.

The Essentials

La Colombe Vanilla Draft Latte
Marisa Chafetz / Supercall
We understand that the idea of milk in a cocktail can be frightening, whether you’re lactose intolerant or simply don’t want to mix alcohol and dairy. And that’s OK because our friends at Nitehawk Cinema found a way to recreate the White Russian without using any heavy cream. “The Dude Abides is more an homage to the flavor and feeling of a White Russian,” says beverage director Matt Walker. “We had been playing with floated egg white cocktails for a while when our head bartender Daniel Thompson came up with this gem. The prep and build are complicated but well worth the effort.” The recipe calls for a homemade coffee-infused vodka, which takes about two weeks of downtime, but the result will make you glad you took the extra time to make it. Ancho Reyes adds a touch of spice, while the dark beer gives the drink a deep, rich flavor. An egg white provides the frothy, decadent head, which won’t leave you missing any dairy.

The Essentials

coffee-infused vodka
Ancho Reyes
Egg white

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