Remix: The really, really Black Russian

Remix: The really, really Black Russian
Jessica Bryce Young

As the usual beginning-of-the-year preoccupation with cleanses and detox fads swirled around my FaceTwitstagram in January, I was intrigued by one of them: activated charcoal. Touted as the key to everything from a cleaner liver to clearer skin to a hangover- and gas-free existence, the inky-black powder also just, well, looks cool. Mix it with aloe vera gel for a skin-clearing mask (bonus: makes you look like a J-horror heroine), take two capsules daily for a happier digestive tract, or add it to any liquid – and here, charcoal proponents usually mean cold-pressed kale juice or something equally wholesome – and watch it turn light-suckingly, terrifyingly opaque pitch-black.

Much as I appreciated the healthful news on how activated charcoal uses adsorption (not absorption: Google it) to pull toxic molecules and atoms toward itself, engulfing them so they can be harmlessly eliminated from your system – this is the stuff used in water filters and gas masks – my immediate, and I mean immediate, reaction was to wonder what a Black Russian cocktail would look like mixed with this stuff.

Turns out Nigel Tufnel called it: "It's so black, it's like, how much more black could this be? The answer is none. None more black." Pretty much any drink you mix with activated charcoal will possess Dethklok-approved levels of brutality. Your health-goth friend will totally approve. (Caveat: The reason I say "pretty much any drink" is that my second thought was to wonder what a White Russian would look like. Unfortunately, the milk semi-defeated the charcoal, leaving me with a deep-slate-gray drink that looked really unappealing, though it tasted fine.)

The taste-free, ultra-fine charcoal comes in capsules that you'll have to pull open to get at the powder inside. (Two will blacken your beverage sufficiently.) Although the altered appearance was the real point of this Remix, I couldn't resist tinkering with the cocktail itself, which is way too sweet and basic for Remix's tastes. (I don't get why you'd even bother mixing one when you could just pour a shot of Patrón XO or Van Gogh Double Espresso vodka over ice instead.) I swapped a less-sweet coffee liqueur – you could make your own easily, but I didn't – for the Kahlúa and, at the risk of repeating myself, added a tot of my oft-used favorite, blackstrap rum, for more viscosity and flavor depth. Call it the None More Black Russian. A votre santé!


2 ounces vodka

1 ounce Kahlúa

Pour spirits into an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir and strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Adjust proportions as desired for sweetness (more Kahlúa) or dryness (more vodka).


1 1/2 ounces vodka (preferably Tito's)

1 ounce coffee liqueur

1/2 ounce blackstrap rum

2 capsules activated charcoal

Empty the charcoal capsules (carefully!) into a mixing glass; wear an apron or something black just to be on the safe side, stain-wise. Add spirits and a few ice cubes to the glass and stir. Strain (carefully!) into a glass and add one large piece of ice. Brutal.

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