Black Russian Cocktail

Two glasses of Black Russian cocktails

The Spruce

Prep: 3 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 3 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Yield: 1 cocktail
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
195 Calories
0g Fat
13g Carbs
0g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 195
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 3mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 13g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 12g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 1mg 6%
Calcium 5mg 0%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 46mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

When it comes to simple and satisfying cocktails, few can beat the black Russian. This popular lowball is enjoyed worldwide and the combination of vodka with a coffee liqueur creates a pleasant and irresistible drink. The name for this stems from the dark beginning of the Cold War era; specifically, in the late 1940s, when the American ambassador to Luxembourg, Perle Mesta, was hanging out in the bar at the Hotel Metropole in Brussels. Gustave Tops, the hotel's bartender, created a signature drink for her: the black Russian. 

The black Russian is so well-known that it should be among the first cocktails that every aspiring bartender commits to memory. While you're at it, be sure to learn how to make the white Russian as well, which adds cream to this classic cocktail.

There is not much to the black Russian recipe and it's one of those incredibly easy drinks that anyone can mix up pretty quickly. You will simply pour your favorite vodka and coffee liqueur (typically Kahlua) over ice, stir, and serve.

Ingredients

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Black Russian recipe ingredients

    The Spruce

  2. In an old-fashioned glass filled with ice, pour the vodka and coffee liqueur.

    Adding vodka and coffee liqueur to glass with ice for black Russian cocktail

    The Spruce

  3. Stir well.

    Black Russian cocktail with a stirrer.

    The Spruce

  4. Garnish with cherries, if desired. Serve and enjoy.

    Black Russian cocktail garnished with maraschino cherries

    The Spruce

Recipe Variations

Quite often, vodka drinkers shy away from using flavored vodkas in drinks with darker profiles; it seems a little trickier. This is not entirely true. You just have to be more selective and creative in the vodka you pour. Fortunately, the marketplace for flavored vodkas makes it easy to support this kind of experimentation.

  • Coffee Vodka: Play up the coffee flavor by pouring Three Olives Triple Shot Espresso. It adds a fantastic kick.
  • Chocolate Vodka: Go for a slightly sweeter black Russian and pour the likes of Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate. It is as tempting and delicious as it sounds.
  • Cake Vodka: If you love the new flavors of dessert vodkas and can't wait until the next one comes out, toss them into your black Russian. They're actually a great match.
  • Two-Flavored Vodka: A few vodka brands specialize in combining two or more flavors and these are perfect for this drink.
  • Beyond these suggestions, take your cue by thinking about flavors you might enjoy paired with your morning coffee. It's more than likely that there's a flavored vodka to match. If not, you can always easily infuse the vokda yourself.

How Strong Is the Black Russian?

Two-ingredient, liquor-only drinks are not weak. Think of the black Russian like a scotch on the rocks: a flavorful drink to be enjoyed slowly, sip by sip.


If you make the black Russian with an 80-proof vodka and 40-proof coffee liqueur using the recipe above, it would be about 27 percent ABV (54 proof). It's smoother than a straight shot of vodka, yet retains that full flavor of its ingredients.