Irish coffee is probably the most famous coffee cocktail in the world – brought into our homes through films and TV.
Who hasn’t seen a cop show or movie where a gruff detective flips open a silver pocket flask and pours some whiskey into his styrofoam coffee cup to warm up on a stakeout. “Irish coffee?”, he offers to his partner as a thick cloud of steam exits his mouth along with the words.
It’s a good substitute in a pinch, but here you can learn how to make it the traditional way.
Where does Irish Coffee come from?
The first man to coin the phrase ‘Irish Coffee’ was Joe Sheridan in 1940, a head chef in Foynes at a port in County Limerick, Ireland. This port later became Shannon International Airport.
After a group of Americans arrived on a cold night from a Pan Am flying boat, Joe added the whiskey to their coffee to warm them and lift their spirits.
After tasting it they asked if they were being served Brazilian, to which Joe replied that it’s “Irish Coffee” without skipping a beat.
In 1952 it made its way to America, brought by Stanton Delaplane, a travel writer who tried it at Shannon Airport. He started serving it on November 10th at the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco with the traditional cream floating on top.
If you can’t make it to San Francisco, here’s a short 4 minute film taken at the Buena Vista Cafe:
How To Make Real Irish Coffee
You will need:
- Your favorite coffee (or espresso)
- Heavy cream
- 1 oz Irish Whiskey
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar (or white sugar)
- First make your coffee as you normally would. For the best tasting coffee, remember to use your favorite beans and grind them just before you make it for maximum freshness.
- While your coffee is brewing, you can start preparing the rest.
- Pour hot water into your coffee mugs to warm them up.
- If your heavy cream is thick enough, it will be okay as it is. But if you only have very thin cream, you can try whisking it a little.
- Once your coffee is ready, dump the hot water from your mug and fill it two-thirds of the way with coffee.
- Add 2 teaspoons of brown sugar (or white) and stir. This helps the cream to stay floating at the top. which you must have for a real Irish Coffee.
- Then add 1 oz of whiskey, and get ready to top with the cream.
- To add the cream, hold an upside down spoon over your mug, and pour the cream over the upturned spoon. This will soften the landing on your coffee, meaning the cream will stay on top where it’s supposed.
- Now serve! Don’t mix the layers – drink through the cream.
Here is a video of the process, with a few minor details changed if you fancy a variation on traditional recipe.
How do you like your Irish Coffee? Do you make any changes to spice it up, or do you like it the way it was served in the 1950s?