White Russians and The Big Lebowski

The Celluloid Pantry

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A rich and satisfying after-dinner drink blended from vodka, coffee liqueur, and light cream, the White Russian could almost be said to have it all. A one-stop source of alcohol, sugar, caffeine, and milk fat, the only legal substance it lacks is nicotine.

The Coen brothers' cult comedy classic, The Big Lebowski (1998), is a trippy, California-noir, loosely inspired by The Big Sleep (1946). But here, in the place of a hard-boiled, hard-drinking detective, we find the bowling-obsessed, bathrobe-wearing slacker, Jeffrey "the Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges), who slurps down White Russians instead of rye.

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We first meet The Dude in a supermarket shopping for drink ingredients (half-and-half, which he pays for with a $0.69 check), and, through the course of a convoluted plot involving a soiled rug, a millionaire, mistaken identity, a kidnapped trophy wife, nihilists, porn stars, marmot-wielding thugs, bowling, and avant-garde art, the cocktails remain a constant.

Sometimes they're referred to as "White Russians," other times, jokingly, "Caucasians." Usually they're made with cream, but occasionally, in a pinch, powdered non-dairy creamer. Nevertheless, "The Dude abides" — even when he drinks the one with the mickey slipped in.

White Russian Cocktail

Makes 1 drink

1 1/2 ounces vodka, chilled
2/3 ounce Kahlua, or other coffee liqueur
2/3 ounce light cream

Combine ingredients in an old fashioned glass over ice. Stir gently.

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The Celluloid Pantry is a classic column that ran on The Kitchn from 2006 through 2007 that revisited many iconic moments of food and drink in films. We're taking a trip back through some of our favorites this month, in anticipation of this year's crop of Oscars. Enjoy!

(Image credits: Working Title Films; Nora Maynard)

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