Black Russian Cocktail

By Timo Torner / Last updated on March 20, 2023

The Black Russian is a simple two-ingredient cocktail. The blend of coffee liqueur and Vodka is delicious and has been the base for many variations.
Black Russian cocktail

The IBA (International Cocktail Association) lists a large variety of complex cocktails. But it also includes drinks that are pretty simple in terms of ingredients and preparation. A perfect example of this is the Black Russian.

The easy-to-make cocktail consists of only two components: Vodka and coffee liqueur, which make for a delicious drink. Because the list of ingredients for a Black Russian is that short, balance is crucial: The ratio will define how sweet your cocktail is.


Vodka has a significantly higher proof than Kahlúa, yet, the liqueur is quite boozy too. Therefore, both of them combined will make a seriously potent drink. Further considering that the classic ratio for a Black Russian is 2:1 (Vodka to Kahlúa), you know you will get a cocktail that could blow your socks off.

  • Vodka: Use a Vodka of decent quality. Yes, the sweetness and aromatic taste from the coffee liqueur can mask a harsh alcoholic bite to a degree. However, with only two components, you will still taste it and, also, you're still left with the headache the next morning.
  • Coffee liqueur: Kahlúa is the traditional choice and part of the original recipe. Yet, other brands like Tia Maria work too, of course. If you want something with a real git of caffeine, try Mr. Black.

Prepping the drink is very simple. It gets stirred with lots of ice and strained into a chilled glass with fresh ice.

History of the Black Russian

The Black Russian recipe was invented in the late 1940s by Belgian bartender Gustave Tops. Back then, Tops used to work at the bar in Hotel Metropole in Brussels - the capital of Belgium.

He created the Black Russian drink to honor the American Ambassador, Mr. Perle Mesta, who was one of his regular guests.

The first element is Vodka, the symbol of Russian (drinking) culture. The second one is Kahlúa, which is a famous coffee liqueur from Mexico and made of arabica coffee beans, sugar, and Rum. Thus, the name of the dark and boozy cocktail reflects the mix of both ingredients and the resulting color.

Black Russian variations

The most popular variation of the drink is the White Russian. In fact, nowadays, it is even more popular than the classic version. 

Adding fresh cream turns the Black Russian into a creamier and silkier cocktail. Invented already in the 1960s, it was a movie from the 90s that brought the drink to fame.

The movie is called "The Big Lebowski" and became a cult. That made the drink famous as well. In the film, Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski's favorite drink was the White Russian, which he often referred to as the "Caucasian".

Other famous twists on the classic recipe are, for instance:

  • The Dirty Black Russian (topped with coke)
  • The Black Magic (with an additional splash of lemon juice)
  • The Irish Russian (topped with Guinness)
  • The Mudslide (adding cream & Irish cream)

And this list goes on and on. It is not even close to being complete. The Black Russian recipe from Gustave Tops is the base for many more drinks.

If you like the Black Russian and are looking for more cocktails with Kahlúa, I recommend to try the Espresso Martini or the Dirty Horchata.

Black Russian cocktail

Black Russian

The legendary mix of Vodka and coffee liqueur
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Belgian
Keyword: vodka
Servings: 1
Calories: 216kcal
Cost: $2.60


  • 2 oz Vodka
  • 1 oz Kahlúa


  • Add both ingredients to a mixing glass with plenty of ice.
    2 oz Vodka, 1 oz Kahlúa
  • Stir for 15 to 18 seconds until the drink is well-chilled.
  • Strain it into a chilled glass over fresh ice.


Serving: 3.25oz | Calories: 216kcal | Carbohydrates: 13.1g | Sodium: 2mg | Potassium: 2mg | Sugar: 13.1g
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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