Food & Drink Magazine

A Classic Irish Coffee

By Creativeculinary @CreativCulinary

St. Patrick's Day is just a few days away 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.

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.

A Classic Irish Coffee

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 squelch my natural proclivity to revise a recipe whenever I make this cocktail. The only thing I prefer to do a bit differently then some is to use regular brown sugar in lieu of sugar cubes. I just like that little bit of extra richness as a result. Won't you join me in celebrating St. Patrick's Day with one of these cocktails like that served at Foynes back in 1942? Cheers!

More for St. Patrick's Day:

5 minPrep Time

5 minCook Time

10 minTotal Time

A Classic Irish Coffee

Save Recipe


  • 1 1/2 to 2 ounces Irish whiskey, to taste
  • 4 ounces fresh-brewed coffee
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 oz heavy cream


  1. To warm coffee cups, fill with almost boiling hot water.
  2. Whip the cream until thick, but not stiff; it should still be able to run off of a spoon.
  3. Pour the warm water out of the coffee mugs. Fill 3/4 full with coffee, add the brown sugar and stir til dissolved.
  4. Add the whiskey and stir to combine.
  5. 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; sip and enjoy!

Don't forget St. Baldrick's Charity!

Maybe you'll remember my post from a couple of weeks ago about a beer tasting at Fado Irish Pub. Today they hold their annual fundraiser for St. Baldrick's Charity. People will come and pay to get their heads shaved in support of the kids who have lost their hair and Fado will be giving 20% of their food sales from 12pm to 6:30pm to the foundation as well. If you want to help too, stop by Fado if you're local and have a bite or a drink or if you can't make it, please go visit the St. Baldrick's Foundation website and make a donation. The truth is that a small amount from a large of amount of people can make a huge difference. So, how about one less beer and instead give up that money for some kids? Thanks...and Cheers!

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