What is it about the The Dude? The Big Lebowski has made an impression both on me, and on popular culture as a whole, that seems to be greater than the movie itself should warrant. Thinking about the film I can’t think of a particular theme, character, or image that I can identify as being particularly legendary. I can think of funnier, more inspiring, and better crafted movies. And yet it’s one of the few films that I can watch repeatedly without getting bored. It’s a movie that makes me long to attend the weekend long celebration based around it, Lebowskifest. It is a movie that has inspired a religion, Dudeism. I’ve read their book, The Abide Guide. I’m not entirely sure that they are joking.
This love-it-but-I’m-not-sure-why quality applies to The Dude’s drink of choice, a White Russian. White Russians are a seemingly odd choice for The Dude. They are a bit fussy for someone as laid back as himself, and so sweet that they would seem the province of a novice drinker. The White Russian was created in the late 60’s by adding cream to a Black Russian. It was a sweet and easy to make cocktail from a time in American drinking history that Martin Doudoroff, a historian for CocktailDB.com, called “the absolute nadir of the American bar.”
But this all makes sense when you consider that The Dude himself is a product of the 70’s. His languidly drinking a White Russian is no different from his settling into a bath with some scented candles and a joint. It’s a little girly and laughable but it feels good and so The Dude does not care. We do not just have to rely solely on interpretation of the film to discuss the raison d’être of the White Russian. We can ask The Dude himself.
The character of Jeffery “The Dude” Lebowski was actually based on independent film producer Jeff Dowd, who the Coen brothers met while promoting their first film Blood Simple. Like The Dude, Dowd was a political activist during the Vietnam War, speaks in a characteristically rambling way, and enjoys White Russians. In this quote from a 2008 New York Times interview by Steven Kurutz, Mr. Dowd explains how he came to enjoy the drink,
There was a woman I lived with named Connie, she and her boyfriend, Jamie, were mixologists. We were hanging out and drinking at that time. We went from White Russians to Dirty Mothers, a darker version of a White Russian. It was a very hedonistic period.
So there you have it. A hedonistic drink for a hedonistic dude. If this article has left you craving a Caucasian yourself they are easy to make. Here is the recipe. Just be wary of substituting a cheap coffee liquor for the Kahlua. I’ve tried many times in the past but the aftertaste always leaves me running back to the good stuff.
The White Russian
1 1/2 ounces vodka
3/4 ounce Kahlua
3/4 ounce heavy cream
Mix with ice in an old fashioned glass and enjoy!