Irish Coffee

Glass mug of Irish coffee topped with whipped cream and a green leprechaun hat in the background.

It's said that everyone is Irish on March 17th, which marks the death of St. Patrick, the man who brought Christianity to Ireland.  Today, St. Patrick's Day is a global celebration of Irish culture... and tops on that list is Irish coffee. 

This delicious, rich beverage was created by the chef, Joe Sheridan at Foynes Port in Limerick, Ireland.
Foynes was an airbase for transatlantic flights and usually just a stopover for refueling for longer flights or occasionally due to bad weather, passengers would need to stay the night.  Most often the passengers were political figures or Hollywood A-List movie stars so a restaurant was created to cater to these people.

One evening in 1943, a flight had to turn back to Foynes Air base mid way through its journey. Chef Joe, feeling empathy for the cold and weary passengers, decided to whip up something special for them to drink. The story goes that a silence descended as everyone enjoyed this delectable concoction.  According to legend, the name of this drink came about when a surprised American sampled the beverage and called out, "Hey Buddy, is this Brazilian coffee?"  Joe replied with, "NO, that's Irish Coffee".   Irish Coffee became a huge success and the airport specialty.

Some years later, travel writer, Stanton Delaplane introduced the Irish Coffee to the United States by persuading Jack Koeppler, a bartender at the Buena Vista Hotel in San Fransisco to recreate it. However, Koeppler couldn't keep the cream from sinking when he tried to make the drink.  With perseverance and determination to get it right, he traveled to Limerick, Ireland to meet Chef Joe to learn the correct way to make this delicious coffee.

Want to try your hand at creating this famous Irish drink? 

Here's what you'll need to make a traditional Irish coffee:

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup Irish whiskey
  • 3/4 cup hot coffee
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar 
  1. 1.In a mixing bowl, whisk the cream until thickened slightly - stop before you it soft peaks, the cream should still be loose and runny. Refrigerate until ready to use. 
  2. Heat a glass with hot water and discard. 
  3. Add the brown sugar. 
  4. Add hot coffee. 
  5. As soon as the sugar has dissolved, add the whiskey, stir, and wait a minute or two. 
  6. Pour in half-whipped cream.

or try a Bailey's Irish Cream Coffee

  • 2 ounces Bailey's Irish Cream
  • 1 cup hot brewed coffee
  • 1 ounce Irish whiskey
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar, optional
  • whipped cream 
  1. In a tall glass, add hot brewed coffee, Baileys, and Irish whiskey, then stir well.
  2.  Do a quick taste test; if you'd like it to be sweeter, add up to 1 tsp light brown sugar, then stir. 
  3. Top Irish coffee with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and more brown sugar. Serve immediately.

If you prefer a non-alcoholic version (recipe from Savor the Flavour

  • ⅔ cup strong black coffee 
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon rum extract (adjust to personal taste preference)
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream 
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder, for garnish (optional)
  1. Fill a glass mug with ⅔ cup of hot coffee.  Add the sugar and rum extract and stir until dissolved.  Let the cup stand still until the mixture has completely stopped swirling.
  2. Meanwhile, beat the cream in a medium bowl until it's thick and airy, but still pourable.  Pour it into a jug with a spout.
  3. Pour the cream over the back of a spoon right in the center of each mug.
  4. If desired, dust the cream with cocoa powder using a stencil, and serve immediately.

Tips for all 3 -
Use strong, freshly brewed coffee for the best flavor.  Use caffeinated or decaf, whichever you prefer.
Be sure to use real heavy whipping cream that you've whipped yourself.  Cool Whip and Reddi Whip will not be good substitutes.
Pour the whipped cream over the back of a spoon.  This keeps the cream floating on top.

So why do people drink on St. Patrick's Day?  Inquiring minds want to know...
The holiday was created to honor Saint Patrick on the anniversary of his death. The Christian people held a great feast for which Lenten food and alcohol restrictions were temporarily removed, which is why drinking has become synonymous with the holiday.  

Go ahead wear your green and enjoy an Irish coffee today! 

Sláinte!... that's "Cheers!" in Irish Gaelic.


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