This month’s Mixology Monday, Creme de la Creme, features drinks made with cream-based liqueurs.
When our hostess, Anna, allowed that “lazy bums can include cream in their cocktail” in lieu of a cream liqueur, my path became clear.
“Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s The Dude, in Los Anglez. And even if he’s a lazy man — and The Dude was most certainly that. Quite possibly the laziest in all of Los Anglez County, which would place him high in the runnin’ for laziest worldwide.”
A perfect inspiration for lazy, creamy-cocktail drinkers everywhere, wouldn’t you say?
For those of you not acquainted with the Coen Brothers’ 1998 noir parody, The Big Lebowski …well, there’s no way I could possibly convince you of its worth in 20 words or less. Suffice to say that its hysterical, convoluted plot finds room for Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, John Turturro, Flea, and Tara Reid all on the same screen. It’s a rollicking two hours filled with mistaken identities, bowling tournaments, extortionate Nihilists, and many, many White Russians.
Right there in the opening scene, we find our hero Jeffrey Lebowski — known to all as The Dude, or “His Dudeness, or Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing” — strolling through his local Ralphs. He picks a carton of half-and-half out of the dairy case with a connoisseur’s care, pausing to open the container and sniff the contents.
That particular carton meets a sad fate well before finding its way into The Dude’s signature cocktail, but never fear: Many a vodka-Kahlua-cream concoction appears in The Dude’s mitts as the story unravels. One even serves as the vehicle for a nasty plot twist…
“But… aw, hell. I’ve done introduced it enough.”
Like most cocktails that have been around the block a time or two, the White Russian sports plenty of variations, and a number of competing formulas. The “official” recipe seems a bit out of synch with common usage, proposing a 5:2:3 (vodka, Kahlua, cream) ratio. Most cocktail manuals and drink sites lean more toward a 4:2:1 mix, which I prefer. More vodka seems fine, but an abundance of cream quickly overpowers the Kaluha.
Of course, you could do as many folks — including The Dude, it should be noted — do, and swap the cream for a lighter dairy product. Half-and-half makes a pleasant drink; whole milk will do in a pinch; I can’t recommend low-fat or any of that other what-have-you.
2 oz vodka
1 oz Kahlua
1/2 oz cream (or half-and-half, if you’re not into that whole gluttony thing)
Combine the vodka and Kahlua in an ice-filled rocks glass. Float the cream on top.
I’ve been on an old movie binge for the past couple of months, but after trying and failing to make it all the way through “The Third Man” and “Some Like It Hot” over Labor Day weekend, I decided to give Cinema Appreciation a break for while. Instead, I queued up season two of The Wire, a police drama set in Baltimore.
I think that when there’s a scene in a screenplay that involves food, the writer might as well wave a big red flag and yell, “Character development!” Why else would anyone ever film one? Food scenes are messy and hard to coordinate, and it’s almost impossible for anyone to look good while they’re eating. But because of the intimacy and specificity of food, it’s a great way to establish a character or add context.
The second episode of the The Wire is titled “Collateral Damage,” but it might as well be called, “What’s to Eat?” Early on, two of the main police characters share a meal in an interrogation room. Once partners and still friends, McNulty and Bunk gnaw their way through a mess of crabs that McNulty caught while on duty in a patrol boat. Seafood is expensive, but if you have access and knowledge you can harvest your own, and the meal is sloppy, unpretentious, and obviously delicious. The shells are strewn in piles across a table covered with newspaper, washing up against a rack of cheap beer in cans. McNulty is the founder of the feast, and it’s at least partially an apology for having recently added to Bunk’s responsibilities. Bump is both fastidious and a connoisseur of carnal pleasures. At one point he corrals a crab body and, after razzing McNulty for letting it go to waste, dips his paw into the shell and dispatches a handful of guts, unselfconsciously licking his fingers clean. The entire process is quick, neat, and something that only Bunk could make look graceful.
The next food scene is set in the prison cell of a drug kingpin caught and sentenced at the end of the first season. When one of his foot soldiers visits from another part of the prison, Avon Barksdale offers him food from a spread of Kentucky Fried Chicken. The message is clear: Avon is in control and plans to stay that way. He has the contacts and money to make his stay at least slightly more comfortable. And, even though he has been sentenced to seven years in prison, he intends to find ways to shorten that time, and he is determined to live his life as normally as possible.
In the last food scene in the episode, we catch up with members of the stevedore union at their favorite bar at 9am after a spectacular booze-up the previous night. The dock workers huddle around the bar, nursing hangovers until one man shows up with a carton of eggs. The men crack raw eggs into glasses of beer and then gulp the mess down: breakfast and the hair of the dog in one go. This, we gather, is how they live — hanging on from paycheck to paycheck while the port dies around them.