The proto “White Russian,” called, simply, “The Russian,” (c. 1930) was comprised of equal parts vodka, gin and crème de cacao—and for a creamier version, two parts vodka, one part crème de cacao and one part cream. In the following 30 years, several other versions would fall in and out of vogue, until, at long last, the addition of coffee liqueur was introduced. The combination of equal parts vodka, Kahlúa and cream that we now know as the White Russian rose to prominence in the 1960s, alongside the Black Russian (which, naturally, omits the last ingredient).
But for those born after the drink’s ’60s heyday, it is perhaps best known as the signature drink of the Dude (Jeff Bridges’ character in The Big Lebowski)—whose evangelism for the cocktail raised the White Russian from marginal to cult status. There now exist many variations on the drink (the White Canadian calls for goat’s milk and the Blind Russian for Bailey’s Irish Cream), but our preferred version is famed New York bartender Toby Cecchini’s riff, which allows for the option of aged rum instead of vodka, a new-school and old-school coffee liqueur and the added bonus of Toschi Nocello walnut liqueur and amaretto-spiked whipped cream.