A Treat: The Original Irish Coffee Recipe For St. Patrick’s Day
Even if you don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with parade-watching and partying, take the occasion to enjoy the Irish Coffee recipe—a simply wonderful cup of coffee enhanced with Irish whiskey and heavy cream. It will be especially welcome in our neck of the woods: Mother Nature has given us a chilly, rainy day.
The Original Irish Coffee recipe is below, along with more Irish Coffee recipes. But first, a bit of history.
> January 25th is National Irish Coffee Day.
> The fourth week in January is National Irish Coffee Week.
You might think that Irish Coffee is a centuries-old drink, enjoyed by generations of Irish folk around a hot fire at home or at the pub. But truth be told, it originated in the era around World War II during the dawn of transatlantic plane travel, when air travelers from America to Ireland took an 18-hour seaplane to Port of Foynes in County Limerick.
In cold, damp weather, a hot cup of coffee or tea was offered upon arrival. When “something stronger” was requested, whiskey was added, and Irish Coffee was born.
The name purportedly was bestowed when an American asked if the beverage was made with Brazilian coffee. He was told in return, “This is Irish coffee.”
One passenger enjoying a cup was the owner of the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco. He brought the recipe home in 1952 and began serving the first Irish Coffee in the U.S.
By the time the Shannon Airport opened in 1945, Sheridan had perfected his recipe, and at the airport restaurant there, more and more travelers would enjoy Irish Coffee.
One was the owner of the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco, who brought the recipe home, and, in 1952, began serving the first Irish Coffees in the U.S.
So get out the bottle of Bushmills, Jameson, Slane, or Tullamore Dew.
While the Irish Coffee tradition evolved to use a pedestal goblet with a handle, any glass will do.
Don’t have time to brew coffee and drizzle cream? Make Irish Coffee shots, with 1/2 ounce each of coffee liqueur and Irish cream liqueur.
There are more Irish Coffee recipes and variations below, plus what makes Irish whiskey different.
You can vary the original recipe with a different sweetener (brown sugar, demerara sugar, noncaloric sweetener, etc.). Three level teaspoons of granulated sugar are the modern equivalent of the three sugar cubes.
While the original recipe did not have whipped cream, it’s a treat for many people instead of the layer of heavy cream. (A second shot of whiskey is a treat for some other people.)
Ingredients Per Cocktail
1. HEAT a stemmed pedestal goblet (in the pre-microwave days it was rinsed with hot water). Pour in one shot of Irish whiskey. Add three sugar cubes. Fill with strong black coffee to within one inch of the top. Stir gently.
2. TOP off to the brim with heavy cream, slightly aerated by pouring it over the back of a spoon. Important: Do not stir after adding cream, as the true flavor is obtained by drinking the coffee and whiskey through the cream.
Pouring the cream over a spoon to make it float takes a bit of practice. Also, note that American supermarket heavy cream/whipping cream is ultrapasteurized to increase shelf life. This subtracts from its ability to float on top of the mixture. If you can obtain untreated cream from a farmers market, it will produce better Irish Coffee.
Or, Plan B: whipped cream.
Slainte! (That’s “cheers” in Gaelic.)