Kick start your day (or keep a long day going) with a classic Irish Coffee. Surprisingly easy to craft at home, the boozy caffeinated beverage will wake you up (or keep you up) and make you happy after just a few sips.
Don’t be fooled by Irish Coffee.
Despite its innocent name and frothy topping, a classic Irish Coffee packs a devilish wallop thanks to its double whammy of freshly brewed coffee and potent Irish whiskey.
In other words, drink your Irish Coffees with care. The combo of caffeine and alcohol can make you sensible and senseless at the same time.
What Is Irish Coffee?
An Irish Coffe is a caffeinated cocktail that’s crafted with Irish whiskey, hot coffee and brown sugar. It’s then topped with a thick layer of whipped cream. If you think this combination sounds decadent, you are correct.
However, don’t assume that it’s challenging to craft an Irish Coffee at home. Although its creamy top layer looks difficult to achieve, our Irish Coffee recipe is entirely doable for novice mixologists who may or not also be lazy mixologists.
In other words, if we can craft an Irish Coffee so can you!
History of the Irish Coffee Cocktail
Although Irish Coffee garnered much of its fame as the signature drink at San Francisco’s Buena Vista Cafe and as a popular St. Patrick’s Day tipple, the original Irish coffee traces back to Ireland. Shannon, Ireland to be exact.
Legend has it that Joe Sheridan, the head chef at the Foynes Airbase (now Shannon Airport), invented Ireland’s most famous cocktail in the 1940s. The origin of the name is related to the shot or two of Irish whiskey he added to each coffee cocktail.
As the legend goes, travel writer Stanton Delaplane introduced the Irish Coffee to the Bay Area bar after he became besotted with the boozy beverage in Shannon. It was only a matter of time until the drink’s inventor jumped the pond and joined the party. Yes, Sheridan eventually moved to San Francisco and crafted Irish Coffees at the Buena Vista Cafe to a steady stream of Irish Coffee fans.
Mindi drank her very first Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista Cafe on a frigid San Francisco summer day.
Irish Coffee Ingredients
Although the Irish Coffee tastes like it has a slew of ingredients, its ingredient count is both short and sweet. In fact, you probably already the following ingredients at home:
Don’t worry if you’re missing an ingredient or two. They all should be available at your local shops.
We craft Irish Coffees with Jameson Irish Whiskey for a couple reasons…
First, the popular Irish whiskey is readily available in Lisbon. Since Jameson is the most popular Irish whiskey, it’s should be easy to find in your corner of the world as well. Second, and more important, the triple-distilled whiskey tastes great in this and other cocktail recipes.
Book a tour and tasting at Jameson’s original distillery in Dublin if you want to learn more about this ‘grain to glass’ whiskey produced with both malted and unmalted barley, French maize and Irish water.
Coffee is an important Irish Coffee ingredient – it’s in the drink’s name after all. Accordingly, using quality coffee in any Irish Coffee recipe is a must.
We brew coffee for our Irish Coffee recipe using the same single-origin coffee beans that we use to brew our morning joe. Right now, our beans are from Brazil. Other times, we source locally roasted beans from countries like Kenya and Peru.
While people typically brew these type of beans with a Haribo V60 or Chemex, we use an automatic coffee machine. But not just any automatic coffee machine. We splurged and bought a stylish SMEG with no regrets.
You can purchase a SMEG automatic coffee maker from Amazon if you like its style too.
How To Craft an Irish Coffee
We had assumed that crafting an Irish Coffee would be difficult. It’s not except for one step – whipping the cream to a light batter-like consistency. After attempting this step with a whisk, we pulled out our immersion hand blender for the win.
These are all of the tools we used to craft Irish Coffee:
Don’t worry if you don’t have any or all of these tools. You can improvise if you don’t already own them. This is especially the case in regards to the automatic coffee maker and immersion hand blender. However, you’ll want to use an Irish Coffee glass for maximum visual and flavor impact.
Discover 10 necessary bar tools for lazy mixologists.
Once you’re ready to craft an Irish Coffee at home, the first step is to heat your Irish Coffee glass. This step insures that your coffee will stay hot while you sip it.
The most efficient technique is to pour boiling water into the glass and let it sit for a minute or two before discarding the water into the sink.
We often use this same technique to warm our coffee mugs in the morning.
Once your glass is warm, measure two teaspoons of brown sugar and dump them into the glass.
You can use granulated white sugar instead of brown sugar in a pinch. However, we prefer the rich, deep molasses flavor that brown sugar adds to the cocktail.
Pour freshly brewed hot coffee into the glass.
If your coffee isn’t hot, you can give it a quick 30 to 40 second warm-up in the microwave.
Measure Irish whiskey and pour it into the glass.
Our recipe calls for a healthy amount of Irish whiskey. After all, it’s a boozy beverage.
Stir the brown sugar, hot coffee and Irish whiskey until the sugar dissolves. This step should take about 10 seconds.
The final step is the most challenging and is the one that may take a bit of practice.
We got lucky on our first try and then failed the next two times. In other words, you may want to practice floating a layer of cream on top of the coffee mixture before you craft Irish Coffees for guests.
Our best advice is to blend heavy cream with a hand blender until it achieves a batter-like consistency. This will help the cream to float atop the coffee. A lot of recipes call for lightly whipped cream which didn’t work for us.
Once we pulled out the hand blender, getting the batter-like blend was a piece of cake (pun intended).
Floating the cream sounds difficult but it’s actually easy.
Instead of pouring it directly into the glass, pour the batter-like cream onto the back of your bar spoon. The metal utensil will act as a buffer, dispersing the cream so that it forms a layer instead of sinking to the bottom of the glass.
Do NOT stir the cream. Instead, sip your boozy beverage through the creamy layer for maximum satisfaction and possible cream moustache.
Irish Coffee Variations
Irish Coffee may be a classic but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it your own. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Irish Coffee FAQs
Irish Coffee is a caffeinated cocktail that’s crafted with Irish whiskey, hot coffee and brown sugar. It’s then topped with a thick layer of whipped cream.
Irish Whiskey, Coffee, Brown Sugar, Heavy Cream, Grated Nutmeg (optional garnish) and Chocolate Shavings (optional garnish)
Using Irish whiskey is a must when crafting an Irish Coffee. We like to use Jameson Irish Whiskey but you can use your favorite bottle.
Irish Coffee is stirred, not shaken. The key is to stir the caffeinated cocktail before topping it with whipped cream.
An Irish Coffee Mug is best for serving an Irish Coffee.
Coffee is an ingredient in Irish Coffee. The other ingredients are Irish whiskey, brown sugar and whipped cream.
Yes. Since Irish Coffee was invented in Ireland, it is indeed Irish. But this heritage doesn’t stop the caffeinated cocktail from being popular around the world.
Irish Coffee Recipe
Both boozy and caffeinated, this Irish Coffee pairs well with brunch. It's also ideal to sip on a cold winter afternoon.
- 6 ounces coffee, freshly brewed and hot
- 2 ounces Irish whiskey
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- heavy cream, whipped to a light batter-like consistency
- Place brown sugar into a heated Irish coffee glass.
- Pour hot coffee and Irish whiskey into the same glass.
- Stir until sugar dissolves.
- Top with freshly whipped cream. You'll want to use a floating technique where you pour the cream onto the back of a spoon.
- Do not stir or you'll lose the top layer of cream.
The easiest way to heat the glass it to temporarily fill it with boiling water. We use an electric tea kettle for maximum boiling efficiency.
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Smeg DCF02WHUK Drip Coffee Machine, 10 Cup Capacity, Auto-Start Mode, Reuseable Filter, Digital Display, Anti-Drip System, Aroma Intensity Option, 1.4 Litre Tank, White
Irish Coffee Glass Coffee Mugs Footed Regal Shape 8 oz. Set of 2 Thick Wall Glass Cappuccinos, Mulled Ciders, Hot Chocolates, Ice cream and More!
Japanese Jigger - Premium Double Cocktail Jigger, 1oz/2oz made from Stainless Steel 304
Hiware LZS13B 12 Inches Stainless Steel Mixing Spoon, Spiral Pattern Bar Cocktail Shaker Spoon
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: January 7, 2022