When it comes to cocktail pairings, few films represent the relationship between a man and his drink better than The Big Lebowski. In the Coen brothers’ tale, the slacker hero Jeffrey Lebowski (otherwise known as The Dude or “El Duderino, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing”) finds himself tangling with nihilists, the sheriff of Malibu, and a perverted bowler named The Jesus, relying on white Russians to help get him through the day.
The cult movie helped revive interest in the drink, which first started making appearances in bars during the 1960s. It caught the eye of the Bedford (110 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-302-1002) owner Sean Rawlinson, who decided to put a version of the drink on his menu — “The Dude’s Caucasian” — in reference to what The Dude, throughout the film, calls his preferred tipple. Rawlinson’s version of the drink is a play off the classic recipe, but it takes advantage of a unique combination of fresh ingredients.
Though The Dude can be seen making the cocktail with non-dairy creamer in one scene, you won’t find that method being employed here. “The actual base of it is our house-made vodka-based vanilla espresso. Your normal white Russian would be Kahlúa, vodka, and milk,” the Bedford manager Stuart Hawthorne explains. The key difference is the use of fresh vanilla and espresso beans, which are combined with coffee in a large container and left to steep overnight. Freshly brewed coffee is essential, as is a unique topping: port wine cherries.
The bar makes the cherries in house, letting them soak for three to four days — they give the drink a bit of bite (as well as a non-traditional color) and sweetness when stirred in. “It’s a cocktail for everybody. It’s a cocktail that’s perfect for dessert, and it’s perfect during the day, too,” Hawthorne says. The drink is on the menu year-round, even if New York’s climate doesn’t always resemble that of The Dude’s hometown Los Angeles. Here are recipes for both the large-format version used at the Bedford and a traditional white Russian:
The Dude’s Caucasian by Sean Rawlinson
2 vanilla beans
Coffee beans for brewing coffee
8 espresso beans
1 bottle of vodka
Port cherries (dried cherries soaked in port for three to four days)
Add vanilla beans to a coffee grinder with coffee beans before brewing a pot of coffee. After it’s finished brewing, combine the coffee, espresso beans, and vodka in a container and let the mixture sit for at least 24 hours. Pour into a glass with ice. Top off with a quick pour of heavy cream. Add port wine cherries as a topping. Stir a couple of rotations and enjoy.
Traditional White Russian
2 ounces vodka
1 ounce Kahlúa
Splash of heavy cream
Add Kahlúa and vodka to an old-fashioned glass filled with ice. Top off with a splash of heavy cream. Stir briefly.