The Black Russian is a Vodka-based cocktail mixed with coffee liqueur (typically Kahlua), this classic remains as cool now as it was in your granddad’s time.

Black Russian Cocktail


The origin of the Black Russian is still debated, though the most common story traces back to the Hotel Metropole in late 1940s Belgium. It’s said the hotel barman Gustav Tops created the drink in honor of Perle Mesta—an American diplomat. Tops appropriately named this new cocktail the Black Russian: Black for the rich dark color of coffee liqueur and Russian after the quintessential Russian spirit.

Did You Know?

Though technically a vodka drink, the main flavor profile comes from the Kahlua. The coffee liqueur provides a nutty roasted richness, the syrupy sweetness of the liqueur tempered by the vodka’s neutrality. Bonus: Kahlua is caffeinated, so you can get tipsy and wired at the same time!

Fun Fact

A Washington DC socialite (which is a fancy way of saying “a super-rich party girl with good manners”), Mesta famously hosted huge galas, entertaining the powerful and elite. As she inspired the cocktail, we’re guessing Black Russians definitely made it into the hands of a few politicians during these lavish little shindigs.

Black Russian Cocktail Ingredients
  • 1 oz Kahlua: Any coffee liqueur will do, but Kahlua is our go-to!
  • 2 oz Vodka: Absolut or other mid-range vodkas should work fine. No need to get too fancy unless you really want to.
  • Cherry garnish: We use maraschino cherries but fresh works as well.
  • Fill a rocks or Old Fashioned glass with ice
  • Pour 1 oz Kahlua
  • Pour 2 oz Vodka
  • Stir gently
  • Garnish with the cherry


Its simplicity makes the Black Russian a good foundational cocktail for different variations. Some of the more popular versions are listed below.

  • Brown Russian: A few drinks are referred to as a Brown Russian.  One of the more common versions involves topping off a regular Black Russian with ginger ale.
  • Taylored Black Russian: Same as above, but add 1oz Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup. Named after Elizabeth Taylor, who evidently loved this rich, chocolatey variation.
  • Colorado Bulldog: Make a Black Russian as above, but top with cola. Also known as a Dirty Black Russian, Australian Black Russian, or Tall Black Russian.
  • White Russian: Same recipe but with cream added. Some may balk at White Russians being classified as a “variant,” but even The Dude must abide the Black Russian was here first. (Optional: carefully layer the cream on top for a dramatic light-to-dark presentation.)
  • Mudslide: A variant with 1 oz vodka, 1 oz Kahlua, 1 oz Irish Cream, and 1½ oz cream.


  • Though Kahlua is the most widely used, any coffee liqueur may be substituted, such as Tia Maria, Kamora, or Toussaint. If you’re feeling frisky, try using Patrón XO Cafe!
  • Using various flavored vodkas can add pleasant new flavor combinations. Vanilla vodka, raspberry vodka, even coffee flavored vodka may be used if you’re really nuts about coffee.
  • Replace the cherry garnish with a raspberry for a touch of bright acidity.

When to Serve a Black Russian

The cocktail’s versatility allows it to be enjoyed at any occasion, but especially:

  • For dessert: A sweet and pleasant way to end a good meal, especially when paired with a chocolatey or creamy dessert.
  • When hosting a party: Black Russians are crazy easy to make at home.
  • Christmastime: The comforting, restorative qualities of coffee in a chilled drink.
  • Occasions calling for iced coffee: which is pretty much always.

What to Serve with a Black Russian

  • Chocolate: This includes cakes, fudge, ice cream, and just about anything made with chocolate. Go nuts! Speaking of nuts…
  • Nuts: Anything with almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, you get the idea.
  • Fruits: Figs, cherries, currants, raspberries, and blackberries.

If you’re looking for more pairings just remember: if it goes well with coffee, it likely goes well with a Black Russian.

As always, remember to enjoy responsibly. Black Russians are easy to make, but even easier going down!

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