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Black Russian Cocktail

The Black Russian cocktail is more than just a White Russian without cream. Whether you’re curious about the dark drink or if you’re simply looking for a Black Russian recipe, you’ve come to the right place.

Black Russian with Black Background
Image: ©2foodtrippers

The Black Russian isn’t just a sophisticated sipper that’s ridiculously easy to craft at home. It’s also the bol’shoy papa (i.e. big daddy) of a cocktail category that includes the White Russian, Mudslide and Mind Eraser.

While the Black Russian’s story is almost as short as its recipe, the vodka drink’s flavor is as big as Siberia.

What Is A Black Russian Drink?

Black Russian with Liquor Bottles
We said that a Black Russian is more than just a White Russian without cream; however, that’s exactly what it is. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

In simple terms, a Black Russian is a two-ingredient cocktail made with vodka and coffee liqueur plus ice cubes. While it’s not necessary to measure the ice, the vodka and coffee liqueur must have a 2:1 ratio.

Although it’s easy to confuse a Black Russian cocktail with a White Russian cocktail, the two drinks have distinct differences. For starters, the Black Russian is as dark as coffee while its counterpart has a milky complexion. The chocolate brown cocktail also provides more of a kick without any mixers to dilute its alcohol components.

Plus, as a bonus, the Black Russian ticks the box for cocktail drinkers who are vegetarian and/or lactose impaired.

History Of The Black Russian

Black Russian with Kahlua and Vodka Bottles
Cheers to Gustave Tops for combining vodka and coffee liqueur to create the original Black Russian cocktail. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

The Black Russian and White Russian cocktails are the opposite of a ‘chicken and egg’ situation. Unlike their poultry peers, we know which drink came first – the Black Russian.

Cocktail lore attributes the creation of the Black Russian to a Belgian bartender named Gustave Tops.

The creative mixologist, who worked at the Hotel Metropole in 1940s Brussels, likely had no ties to Russia. Instead, he named the drink a Black Russian in recognition of the drink’s dark color and the homeland of vodka, one of the drink’s two liquors.

Ingredients

Black Russian Ingredients
The Black Russian’s ingredients include vodka, coffee liqueur and ice. While the first two ingredients are pictured here, the ice cubes are chilling in the freezer. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

The Black Russian isn’t just easy to craft, it also has a super succinct ingredient list with the following three ingredients:

  • Vodka
  • Coffee Liqueur
  • Ice Cubes

You can use your favorite vodka and coffee liqueur to craft a Black Russian.

Keeping to theme, we sometimes use Stolichnaya vodka. Although Stoli is currently produced in Latvia, the popular vodka has a long Soviet past.

However, there’s nothing remotely Russian about Kahlúa, our preferred coffee liqueur. Dark and rich, Kahlúa has always been produced in Mexico.

How To Craft A Black Russian Cocktail

Black Russian Cocktail with Black Background
The best part about crafting a Black Russian at home is drinking the results of your labor. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

The first step in this recipe is to add ice to the lowball glass. We typically use ice ‘crafted’ by our refrigerator’s automatic ice maker.

Pouring Kahlua for Black Russian Cocktail
Measuring the two liquors is the most difficult step in our Black Russian recipe. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

The second step is to measure the two liquid ingredients. We use a Japanese Jigger to ensure accurate measurements and avoid spillage.

Buy a Japanese jigger from Amazon if you need a jigger or want an inexpensive upgrade.

Pouring Kahlua into Black Russian Drink
Pouring the liquor into a glass is the second most difficult step. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

The third step is to pour each liquor directly into the ice-filled glass. You’ll want to do this doing this immediately after measuring each.

Stirring Black Russian Cocktail
Stirring the Black Russian is the easiest step. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

The final step is to stir the drink for a few seconds – no garnish or flourishes necessary.

Variations

Daryl Drinks a Black Russian Cocktail
Nothing comes between Daryl and his Black Russian cocktail. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

We recommend trying a Black Russian in its pure form before adding additional ingredients. When you’re ready, the following alternatives will get you started:

  • Add lemon juice to craft a Black Magic cocktail.
  • Add Irish cream liqueur to craft a Blind Russian cocktail.
  • Add ginger ale to craft a Brown Russian cocktail.
  • Add club soda to craft a Mind Eraser cocktail.
  • Add cream to craft a White Russian cocktail.

Discover 10 essential bar tools for the home mixologist.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Black Russian cocktail?

A Black Russian is a three-ingredient cocktail made with vodka, coffee liqueur and ice cubes.

Why is it called a Black Russian?

The Black Russian’s name was inspired by the cocktail’s dark color and the homeland of vodka.

Where was the Black Russian invented?

Despite its name, the Black Russian was invented in Belgium.

What are the ingredients in a Black Russian?

Vodka, Coffee Liqueur and Ice

What’s the best vodka for a Black Russian?

Any vodka will work in the Black Russian recipe.

Is the Black Russian shaken or stirred?

The Black Russian is stirred, not shaken.

What’s the best glass for a Black Russian?

We like to serve this cocktail in a lowball glass and you should do the same.

Did you craft this cocktail? If so, please rate the recipe below.

Black Russian on Coaster
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4.50 from 4 votes

Black Russian Recipe

The Black Russian combines vodka and coffee liqueur to create a tasty cocktail with a caffeine kick.
Prep Time2 minutes
Total Time2 minutes
Course: Drink
Cuisine: Cocktail
Servings: 1
Calories: 228kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce coffee liqueur
  • ice

Instructions

  • Fill lowball glass with ice 3/4 to the top.
  • Add vodka and coffee liqueur.
  • Gently stir.

Notes

None

Estimated Nutrition

Calories: 228kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 0.03g | Fat: 0.1g | Saturated Fat: 0.03g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.03g | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 1mg | Sugar: 13g | Iron: 0.01mg
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About The Authors

About The Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers their unique taste of the world.

Disclosures

Article Updates
We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

Funding
We purchased the ingredients and tools used to craft this cocktail.

Original Publication Date: August 17, 2021

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