The Original Irish Coffee Recipe and Its History

Irish Coffee Recipe

I have often heard the expression that, “On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish”. In the age of globalization, it is not difficult to fully share in the ‘luck of the Irish’, by enjoying a classic Irish Coffee, in an Irish Pub, in almost any international city.

The Irish Coffee was created in the winter of 1943 by Joe Sheridan, chef at Foynes Port in Limerick, for cold, weary passengers from a transatlantic flight to New York, that was forced to return to Ireland, due to bad weather.

According to the legend, the name came about with the following exchange:

"Hey Buddy," said a surprised American passenger, "is this Brazilian coffee?" "No," said Joe, "that's Irish Coffee."

The Irish Coffee was a huge success and became an airport specialty. In 1952, after the war, the delicious concoction was introduced to the United States, by travel writer, Stanton Delaplane. He brought it to the attention of Jack Koeppler, a bartender at the Buena Vista Hotel in San Francisco and persuaded him to recreate it.

The cream kept sinking when Koeppler tried to make the drink, so he traveled to the source, Joe Sheridan in Limerick, Ireland to learn the correct way to make this new coffee sensation. This is the recipe offered by Joe Sheridan, to make a true Irish Coffee:

Cream - Rich as an Irish Brogue
Coffee - Strong as a Friendly Hand
Sugar - Sweet as the tongue of a Rogue
Whiskey - Smooth as the Wit of the Land

What You'll Need

  • 4 ounces strong rich hot coffee
  • 1 1/2 ounce Irish Whiskey
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar ​
  • 1 ounce lightly whipped double cream

​How to Make It

  1. Pour the sugar then coffee into a warm , mug or other heat-proof glass.
  2. Stir until dissolved.
  3. Add the Irish whiskey and stir again.
  4. Float the cream on top by pouring it over the back of a spoon. Do not stir again. Instead, drink the coffee through the cream.

In the most general of terms, to prepare an Irish Coffee, you'll need hot coffee, sugar, Irish whiskey, and whipped cream. The coffee plays a supporting role to the other key components, so brew up your favorite bean and make sure it's hot before beginning.

A Few Popular Variations on Irish Coffee

  • Buena Vista Irish Coffee: Uses two sugar cubes and calls for the cream to be lightly whipped and poured over the back of a spoon.
  • Irish Cream Coffee: Calls for half Irish whiskey and half Bailey's,and is topped with a Maraschino cherry.
  • Irish Coffee with Bailey’s and Kahlua: Uses Bailey’s Irish Cream, Kahlua and whipped cream.

Use Only Irish Whiskey for Classic Irish Coffee

There is no question about it, Irish coffee should be made with an Irish Whisky. Choose something in the mid-range with a mild, sweet finish to counter the bitter coffee. When made with an 80-proof whiskey in the measurements given in the recipe, the Irish Coffee is:

It is a simple sipper, so just sit back and enjoy.
'Do shláinte' (Gaelic Toast)
to your health.




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