Made with just vodka, Kahlúa and heavy cream—and popularized by The Dude, Jeff Bridge’s slacker hero character in The Big Lebowski who seemed to subsist on the drink—it’s hard to take the White Russian seriously. Still, the decadent after-dinner drink has a bit of a history, despite gaining its cult status in a film. A version of the cocktail dates back to the early part of the 20th century, when it appeared in the 1930 edition of The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock under the name the Russian, made with vodka, gin and crème de cacao (yikes). There was also the Barbara, made with vodka, crème de cacao and cream, which eventually became the Russian Bear, then the Russian, and when Kahlúa a came into play in the 1940s, it found its way into the Russian and became the White Russian that we know by the 1950s. To honor this evolution, these are nine new versions of the Dude’s favorite beverage. It’s time to abide.
In Brooklyn, John Bush and Bill Riley came up with this cocktail made with Absolut Elyx, root-beer-flavored vodka, Kahlúa and whole milk. It’s served on the rocks (Dude-approved) and garnished with an orange peel.
This cocktail was developed by mixologist Diane Corcoran, who switched things up a bit by adding El Dorado rum in place of vodka. She stuck with the half-and-half and added coconut puree, Tempus Fugit crème de cacao, Firelit coffee liqueur and an egg white for froth and texture.
Bartender and proprietor Erick Castro came up with this riff on the Colorado Bulldog, which is a twist on the White Russian (the Bulldog calls for a splash of Coca-Cola). Castro uses Jamaican rum, root beer, coffee liqueur and cream.
Named so because the ingredients come from all three points of North Carolina’s Research Triangle (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill), this cocktail is a creation of bartender James Duerr, who makes his version with TOPO organic vodka, Durham Distillery’s Damn Fine coffee liqueur, cinnamon-infused simple syrup and Larry’s Beans cold-brew coffee. It’s topped with whipped cream and a cinnamon sprinkle.
The mecca of all things Lebowski can be found miles away in Iceland where an entire menu is dedicated to the Dude’s favorite drink. Almost appropriate for a breakfast treat, this drink is made with Reyka vodka, Kahlúa, Mickey Finn chocolate liqueur, white cocoa and cream and is topped with Cocoa Puffs.
Bartender and proprietor H. Joseph Ehrmann has created a Latin version of the White Russian inspired by Oaxacan chocolate, aptly naming it El Dude. Ehrmann’s take includes Tia Maria, Del Maguey Vida mezcal, Bols Natural Yoghurt liqueur, Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, Cannella cinnamon cordial, which, after being combined over crushed ice, is topped with a heavy cream floater and dusting of cinnamon.
For something a little lighter (in terms of ABV) and colder, Ample Hills Creamery has an homage to The Dude—a boozy White Russian ice cream made with milk, coarsely ground coffee beans, sugar, skim milk powder, egg yolks, cream and, yes, vodka.
Fittingly served at a bowling alley, this cocktail is the brainchild of general manager Jared Mort, who serves the White Russian in frozen slushy form. He blends Tito’s Handmade vodka, house-made Civil Coffee liqueur, horchata cream (made with almond milk) and a cinnamon tincture. Mark it 8!