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Here’s how to make a Black Russian! This coffee-flavored vodka cocktail is perfect for after dinner drinks or an afternoon pick-me-up.

Black russian
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Here’s a cool sweet treat in the form of a cocktail: the Black Russian! This classic cocktail from the 1950’s is the perfect after dinner drink or afternoon pick-me-up. It’s got just 2 ingredients, and almost tastes like a dessert. You might know its more popular cream-filled cousin, the White Russian. But the Black Russian is the original. We might even like it a little better. Here’s what to know!

What’s a Black Russian?

The Black Russian is a vodka cocktail with coffee liqueur. This classic cocktail was invented back in 1949, when it was created in a hotel bar in Brussels for the American ambassador to Luxembourg (here’s more about that). So, the drink is not Russian in origin! It was named for the vodka and the black color of the coffee liqueur.

This cocktail is on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails, meaning that it has an “official” definition. The ingredients in a Black Russian are:

  • Vodka
  • Coffee liqueur like Kahlua

What is Kahlua, anyway?

Kahlua is pretty standard in a liquor cabinet these days, but what actually is it? Here’s what to know about this coffee liqueur, and some substitutes:

  • Kahlua is a coffee liqueur that’s made in Mexico: it’s made with rum, sugar and coffee. It does have some caffeine, but only about 25% as much as the same volume of coffee.
  • How much does Kahlua cost? Kahlua costs about $20 per bottle.
  • What are some substitutes for Kahlua? You can also use other types of coffee liqueur, like Tia Maria or Sheridan’s.
  • What other cocktails use Kahlua? Use it to make Kahlua drinks like the White Russian, Mudslide or an Espresso Martini.

Want more coffee cocktails? Go to Coffee Cocktails Worth Trying.

Black Russian

How to make a Black Russian cocktail

Once you’ve got your ingredients, this two ingredient cocktail takes only a few minutes to make. There’s one difference from the White Russian: you don’t mix the ingredients together in the glass. Instead, stir them in a mixing glass: it’s a classic stirred cocktail like the Martini. Here’s what to do:

  • Stir together the vodka and Kahlua in a cocktail mixing glass. Shaking dilutes the drink with ice. Adding to the glass doesn’t get it cold enough. So you have to stir it in a separate container like a cocktail mixing glass.
  • Don’t have a mixing glass? Use any glass or container you like to mix the drink, then strain it into the serving glass. Or, grab yourself a cocktail mixing glass. (Plus, it just looks cool.)

Make it a White Russian!

What’s a Black Russian vs White Russian? The Black Russian is vodka and Kahlua, and the White Russian is the same ingredients with heavy cream. To make the popular White Russian variation, just add 1 ounce of heavy cream along with the same amount of Kahlua. To make a lighter version, you can use milk if you like. The flavor’s not nearly as creamy, but it’s lighter and easier to drink.

Why drink a Black Russian instead of the white variation? Well, it’s healthier with less calories! Even better, we prefer the flavor and simplicity of the straight version to its creamy cousin.

White Russian
The White Russian is a well-known variation on this classic

More variations on the Black Russian

There are a few other riffs on the Black Russian theme that are worth mentioning! If you’re a fan of this drink, make sure to try:

  • Mind Eraser: Essentially a layered version of the Black Russian, topped with soda water! It’s bubbly and refreshing.
  • Colorado Bulldog: Try the White Russian in a highball glass with a splash of cola, and it tastes like a root beer float.

More two ingredient cocktails

Because it’s only two ingredients, the Black Russian is one of those easy cocktails you can whip out for unexpected guests. Here are some more famous two ingredient cocktails. With most of these, you don’t even need to shake them: just stir together in a glass:

Black Russian

When to serve a Black Russian

The Black Russian is a sweet cocktail, almost a dessert! It works before dinner, after dinner, or anytime in between. Serve it as a:

  • Happy hour drink
  • Afternoon cocktail
  • Late night drinks drink
  • Girls or guys night drink
  • Cocktail hour drink
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Black russian

Black Russian (Coffee Cocktail!)

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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 3 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x


Here’s how to make a Black Russian! This coffee-flavored vodka cocktail is perfect for after dinner drinks or an afternoon pick-me-up.


  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) vodka
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) Kahlua*
  • Ice, for serving (try clear ice)
  • For the garnish: cocktail cherry (optional)


  1. Add the vodka and Kahlua to a mixing glass and fill with it ice. Stir until cold.
  2. Strain the drink into an ice filled lowball glass. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.


*Make it a White Russian by adding 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) heavy cream.

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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1 Comment

  1. Tony Kong says:

    Tried a few of your recipes and they tasted very pleasent and refreshing. Thanks