Featured Cocktails - Black Russian and White Russian

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Featured Cocktails - Black Russian and White Russian. Learn how to make these classic cocktails along with lots of nouvelle variations and explore the drink's history.

These two classic cocktails -- a mixture of Vodka and Kahlua, without or with cream or milk-- are not so named because they originated in, or are particularly popular in Russia. Rather, at the time of their invention -- before the heyday of Finlandia and Absolut, et al -- most Americans associated vodka with being a Russian export. The Cold War also undoubtedly had something to do with the drink's nomer.

Legend has it that the Black Russian first appeared in 1949, at the Metropolitan Hotel in Bruxelles. Bartender Gustave Tops created the drink in honor of then US ambassador Pearl Mesta.

Tips & Particulars

  • If you keep your vodka in the freezer freezer (don't worry, the alcohol content prevents it from freezing) you can use less ice and still have a well-chilled cocktail.
  • If you're out of Kahlua, you can use Tia Maria, Starbucks Coffee Liqueur or other coffee flavored liqueurs. In fact, connoisseurs like to make their own special blend of coffee liqueurs.
  • While cream makes a richer drink, know that you could substitute half and half, whole milk, reduced or low fat milksbrown russian hot chocolate or even skim milk in your White Russian.
  • If you have low quality vodka and/or coffee liqueur, a splash of heavy cream can hide a multitude of sins.


Like any classic cocktails, the Black Russian and White Russian have spawned a huge array of variations. Some of the most popular are listed below:
  • Make your Black Russian in a tall highball glass and tops with a splash of cola and you have a Long Black Russian.
  • Add cream or milk to a Long Black Russian and you have a Colorado Bulldog.
  • Turn a Long Black Russian into an Irish Russian by adding enough Guinness to form a head on the drink.
  • Use Yoo Hoo soda pop instead of cream or milk to make a Russian Yoo Hoo.
  • To make a Blonde Russian, replace the cream or milk with an Irish Cream Liqueur, such as Bailey's or Carolans.
  • Use skim milk in your White Russian to get an Anna Kournikova.