The black Russian is one of the most famous dessert cocktails on the planet. It’s known for its bold flavor, strong buzz, and enjoyable taste that doesn’t get old. While it’s a simple blend of flavors, it offers a sophisticated approach to dessert drinks that can help you stand out at any event, or blend in with the bigwigs at your next corporate outing.
Typically, it’s a combination of vodka and coffee liqueur, with the most popular being Kahlúa. The drink is enjoyed by people around the world and got its start in Brussels during the late 1940s.
If you want to learn everything about this drink, you’re in the right place. Read on to learn about what a black Russian is, how to make it, and how to enjoy it.
What Exactly Is a Black Russian: An Overview
A black Russian is a famous cocktail that combines vodka and a coffee liqueur, which is usually Kahlúa. When combining these alcoholic beverages you end up with a super drink that packs a punch. After a few of these, you’ll either have a buzz or be on the floor depending on how many parts vodka are mixed with the coffee liqueur, so drink responsibly.
When it comes to the appearance of a black Russian, it has a distinctive look that you’ll remember after the first time you see it. The beverage has a deep color, closer to black than coffee, and usually has a handful of ice cubes in it. Some people may also toss in a coffee bean or two to add a hint of class – sort of like how you find coffee beans in an espresso martini from time to time.
When it comes to taste, the black Russian maintains a potent flavor that you get from vodka but this can vary depending on the type of vodka. For most black Russians, it’s important to use a more upscale vodka to provide more smoothness for the drink. Aside from the taste of vodka, you’ll also get notes of coffee. This typically adds a crispness to the drink that’s hard to find in other coffee liqueur drinks.
What Does a Black Russian Taste Like?
A black Russian has a distinctive flavor that’s bolder than an espresso martini but still smooth enough to sip from a nice glass after dinner. The purpose of the drink is to balance the bitterness of coffee with the smoothness of vodka. This is why we recommend using high-quality vodka, or else the black Russian will taste more like your average spiked coffee or it could be more potent like a Black Manhattan.
The exact flavor varies depending on what you include in the black Russian, but the most common flavor comes from a pairing of vodka and Kahlúa. This pairing gives the drink a deep and rich flavor that also has a kick from the vodka. There are also some unique variations of a black Russian that will change the flavor profile. For example, some people add cream to make it a white Russian, which has a creamer taste.
Overall, the flavor varies greatly depending on what you use to make the black Russian.
What Is the Alcohol Content of a Black Russian?
The alcohol content of a black Russian varies based on the type of liquor and coffee liqueur that you use. That said, most of the alcohol comes from the vodka portion of the drink because Kahlúa usually has an ABV of 32-33%.
On the other hand, vodka packs a punch and can have an ABV upwards of 40% (per 100-proof bottle). Therefore, the alcohol content can vary by a few percentage points, and most pre-made cocktails have an ABV of 35-40%.
What Is the History of a Black Russian?
While you might think that it comes from Russia because of its name, that’s not the case at all. In fact, it doesn’t even come from any of the Soviet countries that were close to Russia after World War II.
The black Russian was made in 1949 in Hotel Metropole, which is located in Brussels. The hotel was famous at the time for having fancy parties, hosting diplomats, and being an elegant establishment that knew how to have fun. During this time, it became known for creating beverages and honoring some of its guests, which is where the first iteration of the black Russian comes into play.
The black Russian was first made in 1949 by the Belgian bartender Gustave Tops. While Tops made the drink, he didn’t make it for his own pleasure. Instead, the drink was made to honor one of his favorite guests, Perle Mesta. Mesta was an ambassador for the United States and was a famous socialite around the world.
How to Make a Black Russian
The black Russian is a straightforward drink to make. While it’s classy, all it needs is vodka and a coffee liqueur like Kahlúa. To make the black Russian, you’ll need about two ounces of vodka and one ounce of Kahlúa. From there, fill a glass with ice and pour the vodka over the ice. Then, pour the Kahlúa into the glass and stir the drink until it has a coffee color.
It’s also possible to make a black Russian with some unique twists. You can add coffee beans, a shot of espresso, or other ingredients to spice the beverage up. It’s also possible to add cream and make it a white Russian if the vodka flavor is too strong.
How to Serve a Black Russian
A black Russian is easy to serve as long as it’s the right time and place. It should be served after dinner because it pairs well with many creamy desserts. Plus, the coffee liqueur can help you perk back up after eating a carb-heavy meal or help you avoid the sugar crash after eating cake.
When it comes to making the drink, you don’t need any advanced tools. It’s one of the simplest drinks to make because all you need is a glass, some ice, and something to stir the beverage with. That said, make sure the glass is large enough to handle two ounces of vodka and one ounce of Kahlúa.
When to Drink a Black Russian
Black Russians are a good after-dinner drink. We don’t recommend drinking them during the day, but they’re a great choice to relax with after a dinner party. Black Russians are also great in the winter because the coffee flavor mixed with vodka gives some people a holiday vibe.
When it comes to where you can drink a black Russian, anywhere is acceptable. Most bars will have what you need to make one, and it’s a classy drink that you can use to blend in at corporate events.
What Are Some Black Russian Variations?
Black Russians have a lot of variations based on who’s making the drink. The primary ingredients are vodka and Kahlúa, but that doesn’t mean that people stick to these specific ingredients. In fact, many bartenders will add things like coffee beans, cream, and other ingredients to the drink to give it their unique spin.
One of the most common variations of a black Russian is a white Russian. While the two primary ingredients are the same, a splash of cream is added to make the drink creamy. This is a great way to enjoy a black Russian if you like your coffee with a little bit of cream and sugar.
Another famous variation that’s enjoyed south of the border is a black Russian that includes tequila instead. The best liquor for this variation is Patron Tequila with Café Tequila liqueur. This version has a potent tequila taste, and it’s a great alternative for people who dislike vodka. Plus, it’s still a clear liquor and Patron is smooth enough to be enjoyable when mixed with coffee liqueur.
There is also an Italian version of the drink that combines espresso vodka with amaretto. Other variations of the Italian version may also mix espresso vodka with Frangelico or walnut liqueur.
If you want to get really crazy you can also take this drink to another level by adding a splash of Baileys.
Get Ready to Enjoy a Black Russian Today!
While the drink isn’t from Russia, the black Russian knows how to wake you up after a big meal. With about two ounces of premium vodka and a splash of coffee liqueur, you can’t go wrong with a black Russian.
Dare to be bold and try a black Russian today. All you need is some vodka, Kahlúa, and a desire for a nice buzz. Or perhaps you're looking for something similar to enjoy after dinner? Try something different like a Brandy Alexander.