Frontier Psychiatrist

Frontier Mixology, Vol. 19: What makes a man, Mr. Lebowski?

Posted on: September 10, 2010

The Frontier Mixologist is back from his Secret Vacation, which ended up being in not-so-secret Maine, suffering through record-high temperatures but having a good time nonetheless.  Visiting liquor stores in Maine (pity FM’s wife that this is what he does on vacation), I couldn’t help but notice excessively large stocks of a coffee-flavored brandy made by a New England company called Allen’s.  Every store and gas station literally had gallons of the stuff.  From a local shopkeep I learned that it is the biggest seller in the state of Maine and has been for over twenty years.   Having never heard of the stuff, variously referred to as both the Champagne of Maine and a public health epidemic, I bought a fifth and asked what it was most often used for.  The shopkeep dryly informed me that it was used by lobstermen to get women drunk.  Upon clarifying that I meant for what drinks was it used, I discovered that it was simply combined with half-n-half in a drink known officially as a Sombrero, but, due to the caloric density of sugar and cream, much more often just called Fat Ass In A Glass.  Brilliant nomenclature aside, FAIAG tastes like… Baileys.  Sweet and creamy with a light coffee flavor, but with nothing else to recommend itself other than cloying intoxication and a false sense of alertness.  Like the spiked milkshakes now in vogue, i.e. sweet, creamy and boozy, all with a reminiscence of childhood, FAIAG hits the same notes and is quite similar to a drink that edges closer to respectable drinking – the White Russian.

White Russian

1 oz. coffee liqueur

1 oz. vodka

1 oz. half-n-half (or cream)

Shake with ice, strain into an old fashioned glass filled with fresh ice, preferably large cubes.

One can’t, of course, speak of White Russians without mention of The Big Lebowski.  It is likely that most people under the age of 45 who have considered/order/consumed a White Russian have done so with the Dude in mind.

The White Russian, however, is a direct descendant of a long-established class of dessert cocktails, the most famous of which is the Brandy Alexander, an old drink purportedly first created for the wedding of Princess Mary to the Viscount Lascelles.

Brandy Alexander

¾ oz. brandy (worth trying with dark rum, too)

¾ oz. cream (or half-n-half)

¾ oz. dark crème de cacao (“crème” in the name of a liqueur has nothing to do with cream, but refers instead to a syrupy consistency)

Shake with ice; strain into a chilled cocktail glass and dust with fresh nutmeg.

Cocktail snobs no doubt turn down their nose at these dessert cocktails, given how sweet flavors and creamy dairy tend to overwhelm the subtle aromatic flavors of classic cocktails.  Further, an evening of multiple White Russians will result in an epic hangover and severe gastric distress.  But sometimes you want to treat yourself.  Starbucks has built an empire on our collective desire for a quotidian indulgence.  Perhaps no one has put it better than the real life inspiration for the Dude, Jeff Dowd, who described the White Russian as “essentially a liquefied ice cream cone that you can buy in a bar.”  That said, you order a White Russian at a bar, especially a bar at a bowling alley, at your peril; the dairy available at many bars often being less than farm fresh.

Now, despite this post’s title, I have scrupulously resisted any mention of gender in discussing dessert cocktails, which typically and historically have been associated with the fairer sex, i.e. girlie drinks.  As with the Dude, who properly defines maleness from a strictly biological perspective, there’s no reason guys can’t order a sweet cocktail now and then.  This does not apply, however, if you order a chocolatini.  In which case you will be rightfully mocked.

Drink up,

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