Black Russian Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep/Total Time: 5 min.
This two-ingredient Black Russian recipe is as easy to make as it is delicious. Enjoy one after dinner as you relax and digest.

Updated: Jun. 24, 2024

Why drink coffee at the end of a meal when you could sip on a Black Russian? This classic vodka and coffee liqueur cocktail is as simple and elegant as they come. With heady coffee notes and an underlying bite from the vodka, it’s sweet, but not too sweet. We always return to this easy Black Russian recipe because it’s the perfect denouement to a great dinner.

What is a Black Russian?

The Black Russian is a cocktail made from equal parts vodka and coffee liqueur poured over ice. It’s a sibling of the White Russian, which includes a splash of cream.

While the name might lead you to believe that this vodka cocktail hails from Russia, the Black Russian was actually born in Belgium during the late 1940s. Gustave Tope, a bartender at Brussels’s Hotel Metropole, conceived of and concocted the cocktail in honor of Perle Mesta, the then-United States Ambassador to Luxembourg. Where does the Russian connection come in? The Black Russian is named for its ingredients: vodka (a spirit famously associated with Russia) and the rich, dark color of the coffee liqueur.

Black Russian Recipe Ingredients

  • Vodka: As a neutral spirit, vodka takes a step back to let the robust coffee flavors of the Kahlua take center stage. That’s not to say you can’t taste the vodka, so you’ll want to use the best vodka you can buy.
  • Coffee liqueur: Kahlua’s rich coffee notes and balanced sweetness are what the Black Russian is all about. While Kahlua or Tia Maria are the gold standards, any coffee liqueur (including homemade coffee liqueur) works when making Black Russians.
  • Ice: Large ice cubes make for a better drinking experience because they melt more slowly. If you enjoy the occasional cocktail or whiskey on the rocks in the evening, large ice molds are a non-negotiable for your home bar setup.

Directions

Step 1: Build the cocktail

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Place the ice in an old-fashioned glass. Pour the vodka and Kahlua over the ice.

Black Russian Variations

  • White Russian: A mere 3 ounces of cream turns the Black Russian into a White Russian: a richer, more decadent cocktail with a velvety texture. Dust the cocktail with a sprinkle of grated nutmeg or cinnamon, then add a few chocolate shavings to make it a drinkable dessert. (Psst: If lactose isn’t your thing, you can use dairy-free milk alternatives to make White Russians.)
  • Nutty Russian: Combine 1/2 ounce of Frangelico (a hazelnut liqueur), 1/2 ounce of Kahlua and 1 ounce of vodka.
  • Brave Bull: Use tequila instead of vodka to make a Brave Bull. Try substituting the Kahlua for a tequila coffee liqueur to get even bolder tequila flavor.
  • Spiced Rum Russian: Instead of vodka, choose spiced rum. The sweet baking spices and vanilla notes in spiced rum pair beautifully with coffee liqueur.
  • Add a garnish: Most Black Russian recipes don’t call for a garnish, but you will see some that cap off the drink with a lemon peel and maraschino cherry. If you like espresso Romano (that’s an espresso served with a lemon peel and sugar), you’ll love this.

Can you make Black Russians for a group?

The Black Russian is an easy mixed drink to make in batches for a crowd. Bringing these beauties out at the end of a dinner party is a lovely touch. You can make batched Black Russians up to two days in advance. Combine the vodka and Kahlua in a large pitcher, then cover and store it in the fridge until it’s time to pour the cocktails over ice. It’s a good idea to make plenty of large ice cubes in advance, too.

Black Russian Recipe Tips

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What kind of glass should you use to serve a Black Russian?

When you’re in the mood to mix some Black Russians, the old-fashioned glass (aka rocks glass) is the best type of cocktail glass to reach for.

What kind of ice cubes should you use for a Black Russian?

Bigger is better when it comes to the right ice for Black Russians. The larger the ice, the slower it melts, which means it will take longer for your Black Russian to dilute.

When should you serve Black Russians?

Along with its many variations (including the White Russian), the Black Russian is usually sipped as an after-dinner drink. Think of it as you would a post-meal coffee: something to help you digest as you relax.

Black Russian

Prep Time 5 min
Yield 1 serving

Ingredients

  • 3/4 to 1 cup ice cubes
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 1 ounce Kahlua

Directions

  1. Place ice in a rocks glass. Pour the vodka and Kahlua into the glass.

Nutrition Facts

1/4 cup: 170 calories, 0 fat (0 saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 2mg sodium, 13g carbohydrate (12g sugars, 0 fiber), 0 protein.

Here are no-fuss black Russians that are smooth as silk. Perfect for those who aren't sure what they want. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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