Black Russian

The Black Russian cocktail is a dessert drink bursting with coffee flavor. Like a White Russian without cream, this vodka and coffee liqueur drink is both delicious and easy to make.

two black Russian cocktails on a white background with a bottle of coffee liqueur

Black Russian recipe

Black Friday means two things: shopping and exhaustion. I tend to avoid it — unless it’s from the comfort of my couch hunting online deals. I love Small Business Saturday, though. Supporting local businesses is the best.

A long day at the mall (or laptop!) deserves a nice dark drink. The Black Russian is just that.

It’s a smooth, coffee-based libation. I love Kahlua for its chocolatey, coffee sweetness, but you can also use homemade coffee liqueur.

What is a Black Russian?

The Black Russian is a classic drink that combines Kahlua with vodka. With just two ingredients, plus ice, it is one of the easiest drinks you can make.

Despite the name, neither the Black Russian nor the White Russian is from Russia.

Like the Moscow Mule, which is also vodka-based, the moniker simply comes from the fact that it’s made with vodka. However, vodka is made in many countries these days.

In fact, the Black Russian — which came before the White Russian — was created in the 1940s by a Belgian bartender named Gustave Tops the Hotel Metropole in Brussels. He designed it in honor of the American ambassador to Luxembourg, Perle Mesta.

two black Russian cocktails with a red kitchen towel.

History of the Black Russian

The history of this classic drink doesn’t go back very far. In the 1930s, a recipe for “The Russian” was made with equal parts gin, vodka and crème de cacao. According to, a variation called for the addition of dairy.

Then the 1961 edition of the “Diner’s Club Drink Book” included a recipe for the Black Russian, which is made with vodka and coffee liqueur. A footnote suggested adding cream to the drink would create a variation called the White Russian.

The White Russian faded in and out of popularity after that and gained popularity again in the 1990s thanks to the movie The Big Lebowski. The White Russian is the drink of choice of the main character, The Dude, which helped to spark interest in the creamy cocktail.

However, the original Black Russian is still wonderful and is a great choice for a dairy-free cocktail with a stark coffee flavor.

a top view of a black Russian with a red dish towel.



Use the best vodka you can afford! My go-to brands right now are Tito’s, Deep Eddy, Reyka and Absolut.

A cheap vodka will taste cheap and stand out in your drink — and not in a great way — so stick to the $15-20 range if you can!

If you’d like to know more about vodka, dive into my Vodka 101 crash course.

Coffee liqueur

The Black Russian’s coffee flavor is all thanks to the coffee liqueur. Kahlua and Tia Maria are two of the most well-known brands for coffee liqueur out there.

If you’re up for it, making homemade coffee liqueur is worth it. You can make it with your favorite coffee beans and vodka.


Since the Black Russian has only two ingredients, it can be pretty rich. If you want something a little lighter, you can top it off with some half-and-half or cream (or your milk of choice) to make a White Russian. 

You can also have some fun with ice, using the traditional big cubes to make it last longer, or you could pour the whole thing over crushed ice (or even snow!) for a gorgeous, slushy treat.

A scoop of vanilla or chocolate ice cream would take the Black Russian to the next level if you ask me.

a bottle of homemade coffee liqueur with two black Russian cocktails.

More White Russian Recipes

two black Russian cocktails on a white background with a bottle of coffee liqueur

Black Russian

Yield: 1 cocktail
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
A smooth and sweet classic cocktail — like a white russian without the cream.
5 from 1 vote
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  • Fill a rocks glass with ice.
  • Pour in vodka and Kahlua. Stir together.
  • Serve immediately.


For a White Russian, top with 1/2 ounce of half-and-half. Stir before serving.

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nutrition information

Yield: 1 cocktail

amount per serving:

Serving: 1oz Calories: 171kcal Carbohydrates: 11g Sodium: 3mg Sugar: 11g
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  1. Deirdre Reid says

    White Russians are one of my favorite liquid desserts. Last weekend I tried a variation — a White Lithuanian. Replace the vodka with Krupnikas – a Lithuanian liqueur made with honey and spices by the Brothers Vilgalys in Durham. NC made! It’s so good that my vodka bottle may get dusty.

  2. Gwen says

    Susannah! I think you are simply amazing. So charming, creative and un-pretentious. I love to visit Feast and West. I’ll be posting about you, perhaps this weekend. Thank you for sharing the cleverness and humor in your soul!

  3. Camila Grace says

    I am so in love with this recipe of Black Russian. I will try this on my birthday for sure. I bet my friend would definitely love this, Cz they are so crazy for Vodka just like me. So yay!! I will try this and definitely give you their reactions.

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