The original inspiration for this post was borne out of my recent Kate Bush revival. Earlier this week I loaded up my iPod with some of my favourites for my walk to work and back, and among them was my most very favourite…Babooshka. For those of you who don’t remember the song, ‘Babooska’ is the pseudonym used by a woman who is out to test her husband’s loyalty. Posing as a younger woman, ‘Babooshka’ sends him scented love notes, which he reads ‘with a strange delight’. In the song ‘Babooska’s’ husband is attracted to the letters because they remind him of his wife and ‘how she was before the years passed by’. I have never managed to resolve in my own mind if (in the wife’s position) I would be flattered by this, or insulted by the fact that he was attracted to a ‘younger’ version of me. In any case, I love this song because it has a tragic, Russian, mysterious feel to it. Although Kate Bush never explicitly reveals what happens to the couple in the end, the implication is that ‘Babooshka’s’ paranoia ultimately gets the better of her.
I always thought that ‘babooska’ was a Russian term of endearment one might bestow upon their loved one (maybe kind of like ‘Baby’), but when I did the cold hard ‘fact checking’ for the blog I found that the term is actually Russian for ‘grandmother’. I was at least right on the Russian part of it, and as I was walking home one damp, cloudy and blustery night, I got to thinking that surely, there was a Russian cocktail lurking somewhere in that song. My thoughts immediately turned to vodka (I am sure all of yours did as well), but that alone was much too boring for such an intriguing song. So instead, I got to thinking of…the White Russian.
And here’s where you get a rare (ok, maybe not so rare for some of you) glimpse into Jen’s aberrant thought process as one can’t think of the White Russian without thinking about…you got it: The Dude. ‘The Dude’ is the main character in Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1998 film The Big Lebowski. A self-proclaimed slacker, the Dude spends most of his time ‘bowling, driving around, and suffering from the occasional acid flash back’. He hangs out with his two friends Walter and Donny, and is rarely seen without a White Russian (The Dude calls them ‘Caucasians’) in his hand.
You know that I always like to do a bit of research on my cocktails (being an epidemiologist and all) so when I set forth to find out about the historical origins of this cocktail, there wasn’t a lot to be found. Seems that the White Russian first came on the scene during the 1950’s/1960’s (although I have never seen them drinking them on Mad Men) and experienced peak popularity during the 1970’s disco-era after which it fell off the radar until its revival in the late 90’s with The Big Lebowski.
There are mixed reviews out there on the cocktail itself. Serious cocktail aficionados tend to consider the White Russian to be the absolute nadir in cocktail culture, deriding the drink for being overly simplistic and boring with its mix of vodka, kahlua and half-and-half cream. Supporters praise it for the inclusion of the cream which forces the consumer to sip this drink nice and slow. The one thing that everyone agreed on was that the White Russian tends to be found at both extremes of the ‘cocktail drinker profile spectrum’ being favoured by the less serious lightweight cocktail drinkers on one hand and the hard-core lushes on the other. Love it or hate it, one thing’s for certain: this is a rich cocktail with a sugar content that will surely give you one hell of a hangover if you drink a few over the course of the night. So here it is:
The Mix: White Russian
(please note that The Dude’s version is less precise with the measurements)
1.5 oz vodka
0.75 oz kahlua
0.75 oz half-and-half cream
Fill an Old-fashioned glass with ice. Add vodka and Kahlua. Stir. Float the cream on top.
I enlisted a couple of ‘taster extrodinaires’ to give me their honest opinion on how this tastes with milk (as we rarely have cream in the house) and how it tastes with soy milk (for you skinny bitches out there). The general consensus is that you can have this cocktail with either however – in my personal opinion it is best with the half-and half as the cream takes a bit of an edge off the alcohol. I would say that it is definately worth pulling your cheque-book out at the grocery store to write that cheque for the carton of half-and-half (as Dude does at the beginning of the movie).
Having started out talking about ‘Babooshka’ and then ending with ‘The Dude’, I feel compelled to write something that really ‘ties the blog together’. The fact is that I can’t think of two more polar-opposite characters: one that is passionate and paranoid, the other a laid-back heavy-hanger. What ties these two characters together (and by default this blog together) are brilliant creators. I am a fan of both Kate Bush and the Coen Brothers, and would even venture to say that they each changed their media (one music, the other film) for the better. They even did some ground-breaking I’d say. Abide.