All you need to know about Irish Coffee

Can you think of anything better to warm you up on a winters night than an Irish coffee? Whether this is a regular tipple or just a St. Patrick’s Day treat there’s no denying that it’s one of Ireland’s greatest exports.

What you will find in this article. 

The History of Irish Coffee

According to Margaret O’Shaughnessy, the Founding Director at Foynes Flying Boat museum (County Limerick) the first Irish Coffee was made at the flying boat terminal at Foynes, approximately 35 miles from Shannon. Foynes was the heart of flying boat services between the U.S. and Europe and received visitors from all over the world, not least the USA. Many high profile figures would pass through Foynes including Hollywood stars and high profile political figures.  In order to arrive at the Foynes flying boat terminal passengers would have to endure a length boat right and would often be frozen to the core by the time they got there.

Foynes flying boat erminal
The flying boat terminal at Foynes

Now legendary bartender Joe Sheridan began to slip the whiskey into coffee in an effort to warm the passengers.  The story goes that a passenger jumped up and asked ‘Is this Brazillian coffee?’ to which Joe responded ‘Why no, it’s an Irish coffee!’

The last flying boat to leave Foynes was in 1945 but Irish coffee took on a new life across the pond.  San Francisco was the home of the Buena Vista Café (notably still open for business and still serving Irish coffee)

Joe Sheridan later moved to San Francisco and worked at the Buena Vista Cafe where journalist Stanton Delaplane of the San Francisco Chronicle had brought back the secret formula from Ireland and started one of the world’s most famous drinks.

The Irish were probably the first distillers of whiskey.  Irish whiskey was once head and shoulders above the rest and outsold its Scottish counterpart ten fold. Those were the glory days and Scottish whiskey eventually became more popular. Irish whiskey has now seen a resurgence and for me the Iirish are the kings of whiskies.

Irish Coffee Ingredients

So here’s a list of what you’ll need to make Irish coffee:

  • A heatproof Irish coffee glass
  • Two teaspoons of brown sugar
  • One shot of Irish whiskey
  • Double cream
  • Nutmeg (Optional)

How to make Irish coffee

  1. Heat the glass by filling it with boiling water and leave to stand for around 1 minute.
  2. Pour away water.
  3. Add the sugar and coffee and stir until completely dissolved.
  4. Whisk the double cream so that the bubbles start to disappear and it begins to ribbon. Too thin is probably better that too thick at this point. Return cream to the fridge.
  5. Add a little water to the sugar and dissolve in a pan so it become syrup like.
  6. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the Whiskey

5 Great Whiskies To Use In Irish Coffee

Not all whiskies are created equal. Here are some great ones to use in your Irish Whiskey this St. Paddy’s Day.

Jameson Irish Whiskey

The always popular Jameson is as quintessentially Irish as Guinness. It’s triple distilled to remove impurities and gives it a light, cleaner flavour. It’s a blended Irish meaning the tripled distilled malt is mixed with grain whiskey given it an even lighter flavour and texture. As well being one of the best selling whiskies in the world and a St. Patricks Day favourite. With a delicate spiced taste it often a go-to whiskey for a classic Irish coffee. When you think of Irish whiskey the chances are that Jameson is one the whiskies you think of. Here you can find Jamesons own coffee recipe.

Knappogue 12 Year Old

Known for vintage bottlings Knappogue have recent started releasing age statement bottles – hence the 12 year old label. It’s a single malt, triple distilled and left to age in old bourbon casks for 12 years.  This is truly a wonderful whiskey. With a bright and fruity aroma reminiscent of freshly picked pears this fruity little number will give you a beautiful and mellow coffee.

Bushmills Black Bush

Bushmills is my personal favourite whiskey brand. It’s a spicey and fragrant whiskey which has gained much popularity in recent years since the revival of gourmet whiskey drinks. It’s a malt whiskey age in sherry cask for 11 years. Far smoother than Bushmills Original it’s around 805=% malt – compared to most Scotch whiskeis which are around 20% malt. A great whiskey for a great price.

Tullamore D.E.W.

Owned by Grants, a blended whiskey – single malt, single pot still, single grain – Tullamore D.E.W. is a classically Irish tripled distilled whiskey and a very reasonable price. In the US markets Tullamore runs a close second to Jameson as the most popular whiskey.

Tullamore D.E.W. Irish whsikey

Now one of the main competitors for brands such Jameson and Bushmills, Tullamore D.E.W. has that beautiful golden look and what some describe as a buttery tone. A great all rounder and a great whiskey for t hose new to Irish whiskies.



Baileys Coffee

If you’re not a huge fan of Irish whiskey here’s a slightly softer alternative made with Baileys Irish Cream instead .