Original Irish Coffee Recipe and Its History

Original Irish Coffee Recipe

The Spruce

  • Total: 7 mins
  • Prep: 7 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Serving: 1 serving

Joe Sheridan had the right idea when he first combined a robust Irish whiskey with rich black coffee to create the Irish coffee cocktail in 1942. This hot drink has long been a favorite in Irish pubs with a popularity that may rival a great stout (as tough as that may be).

Despite some common shortcuts, a great Irish coffee is not as simple as adding a shot of whiskey to a cup of coffee. No, this is a well-planned, carefully constructed coffee drink that should be mixed with the care of any modern latte or cappuccino. That said, it is actually quite easy!

Follow the recipe and you'll discover why this classic is considered one of the best cocktails of all time. Irish coffee is a steaming cup of sweet, rich goodness that you will crave on a chilly evening and want to share with everyone you know.


  • 4 ounces coffee (strong, rich; brewed, hot)
  • 1 1/2 ounces ​Irish whiskey
  • 2 teaspoons ​brown sugar
  • 1 ounce heavy cream (lightly whipped)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Irish coffee ingredients
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  2. Place the brown sugar into a warm Irish coffee glass, mug, or other heat-proof glass.

    Pour sugar in Irish coffee glass
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  3. Add the coffee and stir until dissolved.

    Add coffee and stir until sugar is dissolved
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  4. Add the Irish whiskey and stir again.

    Stir in Irish whiskey
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  5. Float the lightly whipped heavy cream on top by pouring it over the back of a spoon.

    Pour cream over spoon into Irish whiskey
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  6. Do not stir. Instead, drink the Irish coffee through the cream.

    Finished Irish coffee
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  • Start with a great cup of coffee. To really experience an authentic Irish coffee, you want a rich, thick coffee. Try using a French press or pour-over brewer and high-end, fresh ground beans. Medium to dark roasted coffee works best.
  • Don't forget to preheat your glass to keep the drink warm longer. While the coffee is brewing, pour hot water into the glass or mug to heat it up. Dump the water before making the drink.
  • Choose a great Irish whiskey.
  • 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.
  • Irish coffee is typically served at night after a meal. It combines after-dinner coffee and cocktails into one delicious drink. If you don't usually drink caffeine at night, use decaffeinated coffee.


The Irish coffee was created by chef Joe Sheridan in 1942. He ran the new restaurant at the Foynes airbase (replaced by nearby Shannon International Airport today) outside of Limerick, Ireland.

The story goes that an evening 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 those stranded passengers. One surprised American asked, "Hey Buddy, is this Brazilian coffee?" "No," said Joe, "that's Irish coffee."

The drink was a huge success at the airport. In 1952, a travel writer by the name of Stanton Delaplane was one of those enamored by it. 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 Hotel.

The cream kept sinking when Koeppler tried to make the drink, so he traveled to the source to learn the correct way to make it. He ended up offering Joe Sheridan a position in the American Buena Vista Cafe where you can still get a great Irish coffee. Joe Sheridan used his Irish wit to create a verse that explains 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 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). It is a simple sipper that you can just sit back and enjoy.