How to Make a Black Russian



  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. coffee liqueur


  1. Stir ingredients with ice in a mixing glass.
  2. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass over fresh ice.

You've heard of the White Russian. Heavy with Kahlúa, guzzled by Dudes, decadently sweet. The Black Russian is basically that, but less frivolous. And you can probably guess from name alone what the difference is. A White Russian is swirled with heavy cream, while a Black Russian...isn't. It is simply coffee liqueur and vodka, no white in sight, making it less like a dessert and more like an alcoholic wake-me-up. Traditionally, the Black Russian calls for Kahlúa as well, but get crazy and go for one of the craft coffee liqueurs (all with decidedly more stylish bottles) that have begun to pop up in liquor stores over the past couple of years.

A Little Background

The most-referenced origin story for the Black Russian pegs its creation to a bar in Luxembourg in 1949, where a bartender made it in tribute to the American ambassador to the tiny country, Perle Mesta. Perle was a Washington, D.C. icon, famous for hosting some of its best parties—Harry S. Truman took over the piano and Dwight D. Eisenhower was known to sing at some of these racous gatherings—and being a fearsome political fundraiser. But she was a Christian Scientist and apparently sober through it all, so it's doubtful she ever tried her drink. Ironic. It's also unclear why vodka and coffee liqueur were chosen in her name, as there's no obvious connection to either. A mystery. Generally speaking, in the mid-1900s, American drinkers were getting accustomed to vodka as an integral bar cart spirit, and the Kahlúa coffee liqueur was the new hot thing, so it makes sense that the Black Russian, rich and strong, caught on.


If You Like This, Try These

The White Russian came after the Black Russian, and so naturally, get some heavy cream to pour into your second drink. And then maybe cut yourself off, as these things are deceptively strong. (For further Russian clout, there's the Moscow Mule, which is an entirely unrelated vodka cocktail.) A Mudslide is a close relative, with Irish cream liqueur, coffee liqueur, and vodka. And so is the Brandy Alexander, with crème de cacao, heavy cream, and brandy.

What You Need

Here’s what you need to do a Black Russian justice, beyond what you might be able to dig out of the fridge or cupboard.


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Coffee Liqueur



This story originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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Sarah Rense
Sarah Rense is the Lifestyle Editor at Esquire, where she covers tech, food, drinks, home, and more.
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