The Irish coffee is an iconic cocktail, and the original recipe is not difficult. It requires four common ingredients: The combination of a smooth Irish whiskey with rich black coffee that's sweetened and topped with cream is an absolute delight.
This recipe was created in Ireland by Joe Sheridan in the early 1940s. Despite some common shortcuts, authentic Irish coffee is not as simple as spiking coffee with a shot of whiskey. Instead, this is a well-planned, carefully constructed coffee drink that should be mixed with the care of any latte or cappuccino. That said, it is actually quite easy.
Choose a great Irish whiskey and follow the recipe, and you'll discover why this classic is considered one of the best cocktails of all time. Perfect for a chilly evening, it makes an excellent after-dinner drink that you'll want to share with everyone you know.
- 1 to 2 teaspoons brown sugar (to taste)
- 4 ounces coffee (strong, rich, hot)
- 1 1/2 ounces Irish whiskey
- 1 ounce heavy cream (lightly whipped)
Gather the ingredients.
Place the brown sugar into a warm Irish coffee glass, mug, or other heatproof glass.
Add the coffee and Irish whiskey.
Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Float the lightly whipped heavy cream on top by slowly pouring it over the back of a spoon.
Do not stir. Instead, drink the Irish coffee through the cream. Enjoy.
- Start with a great cup of coffee. To really experience an authentic Irish coffee, you want a rich, strong coffee. Try using a French press or pour-over brewer and high-end, freshly ground beans. Medium- to dark-roasted coffee works best.
- Don't forget to preheat your glass. It keeps the drink warm and helps marry the ingredients. While the coffee is brewing, pour hot water into the glass, then discard it before building the drink.
- Use freshly whipped cream. Avoid the pressurized cans of cream or whipped topping as those will ruin the Irish coffee. Instead, begin with a little heavy whipping cream and vigorously whip it with a whisk or fork until it is light and fluffy.
Who Created the Irish Coffee?
The Irish coffee was created by chef Joe Sheridan in 1942. He ran the restaurant at the Foynes airbase outside of Limerick, Ireland. The story goes that an evening flying boat flight returned to the airport after a failed attempt to reach New York during a winter storm. Sheridan mixed up the first round of Irish coffees for the stranded passengers. One surprised American asked, "Hey Buddy, is this Brazilian coffee?" "No," said Joe, "that's Irish coffee." Later, Sheridan used his Irish wit to explain how 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
How Did the Irish Coffee Become so Famous?
In 1952, a travel writer by the name of Stanton Delaplane was one of the many travelers who became enamored by the Irish coffee. He is credited with bringing the recipe to the United States, specifically to the attention of bartender Jack Koeppler at San Francisco's Buena Vista Café. When Koeppler tried to make the drink, the cream kept sinking, so he traveled to the source to learn the correct way to make an Irish coffee. He ended up offering Joe Sheridan a position at his cafe, where millions of Irish coffees have been made over the years. For a true taste of the original, order one at the Foynes museum in Ireland or the Buena Vista.
How Strong Is the Irish Coffee?
When made with an 80-proof whiskey in the measurements given in the recipe, the Irish coffee is relatively gentle at right around 9 percent ABV (18 proof). While the alcohol effect may be minimal, drinking Irish coffee will keep some people awake. If you don't usually drink caffeine at night, use decaffeinated coffee.