Created by the kind people of Ireland to greet people sailing there from America; a Classic Irish Coffee is as warming as they intended without having to make a cold trip over water!
St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and for many it’s a reason to drink not just beer, but green beer. I have a feeling that some of the debauchery associated with this holiday is much more American tradition than Irish! In lieu of green beer, I much prefer an Irish Coffee, a warming cocktail associated with Ireland that actually originated in the Emerald Isle.
As I was looking at my archives of food and drinks for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, I was forced to realize that the images on this page could use a redo. Poor me, having to make more of this amazing easy cocktail.
Irish coffees were originally concocted as a warm greeting for American travelers landing at Foynes, Co. Limerick after a long 18 hour flight from the US. After landing, passengers were shuttled by boat to the airport terminal which was an especially chilling leg of the trip in winter months.
In 1942 the restaurant at the terminal had a new chef, Joseph Sheridan, and he thought the newly arriving Americans would enjoy the combination of an American staple, coffee, with an Irish twist. The Irish were used to adding a bit of Irish whiskey to their tea; it wasn’t a huge stretch to think of adding some to coffee too. When asked if the resulting beverage was Brazilian coffee, Joe answered, ‘No, it’s Irish Coffee!’ and a tradition was born. The original seaplane terminal is closed but there is a plaque at the Shannon airport that commemorates this event.
Ten years later in 1952 the Irish coffee recipe came to the states via Jack Koeppler, the owner of the Buena Vista Café restaurant In San Francisco, California. Koeppler and travel writer Stanton Delaplane decided they wanted to re-create that drink they had tried in Ireland and it seemed easy enough. Maybe leprechauns were involved but eventually they found the secret to success included the use of Irish Whiskey!
The cream is just slightly whipped and gently spooned on the surface so as not to sink to the bottom of the glass. Easy, warm and warming, it’s a simple drink but one of my favorites and not surprising that it’s still being served at the Buena Vista Café to the tune of 2,000 Irish coffee beverages each day!
I tried to squelch my natural proclivity to revise a recipe when I made this cocktail but I failed. I won’t deny that the addition of a garnish of chocolate shavings was influenced more by improving the photo than thinking the drink really needed it but quite honestly, that hint of chocolate in the last sip? I’m not complaining. Heavy on the whipped cream it was like a taste of coffee, chocolate, whiskey and whipped cream…not quite as decadent as the Irish Coffee Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks that I made last year but certainly a close second!
Won’t you join me in celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with a Classic Irish Coffee like they served at Foynes back in 1942? It’s just as splendid in 2018. Cheers!
Want more for St. Patrick’s Day?
- Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes with Irish Whiskey Frosting
- Reuben Sandwich with Home Cured Corn Beef
- ‘Irish Coffee’ Cake (with some additional great recipes from friends)
- Shepherd’s Pie paired with Guinness
- Baby Guinness Cocktail
A Classic Irish Coffee
Too good for just one holiday; this warm coffee with Irish Whiskey and whipped cream is perfect all winter long.
- 3-4 ounces Irish whiskey, to taste
- 8 ounces fresh-brewed coffee
- 2-4 brown sugar cubes, to taste (or 2-4 tsp brown sugar)
- 1/4 cup whipping cream
- Chocolate Shavings (optional)
- To warm coffee cups, fill with almost boiling hot water.
- Whip the cream until thick, but not stiff; it should still be able to run off of a spoon.
- Pour the warm water out of the coffee mugs. Fill 3/4 full with coffee, add the brown sugar and stir til dissolved.
- Add the whiskey and stir to combine.
- Hold a spoon upside down over the coffee and gently pour the cream over the back of the spoon, allowing it to gently pool on top of the coffee; filling to the top of the mug. Do not stir.
- Garnish if desired with chocolate shavings. Sip and enjoy!