A proper Irish Coffee is topped with a lightly whipped and aerated layer of cream. That way, it won't mix with the dark brown liquid consisting of coffee, Whiskey, and sugar syrup. It's a comforting and warming drink, ideal for cold winter days. And it works both ways, if you need a drink to wake up or if you're up to a long night.
Usually, a serving of Irish Coffee is not too large. The recipe for an ideal Irish Coffee shouldn't be more than 6 ounces. At that size, the balance of the ingredients is perfect, not too boozy, not too sweet, and with a delicious nuance of Whiskey.
History of the Irish Coffee cocktail
Alcoholic coffee cocktails have a long tradition. People mixed caffeine with alcohol long before Irish Coffee or Espresso Martini were on the map. And some of those creations are actually closely related to what is now known as Irish Coffee.
In Germany, a drink called Pharisäer is served as a hot coffee mixed with Rum and topped with whipped cream. A very similar spiked coffee cocktail is coming from Austria. In the coffee houses of Vienna, the Fiaker is a crowd favorite as soon as winter begins. It's a large serve of mocha topped with whipped cream and a shot glass of Sliwowitz or Rum served on the side. And in France, ordering a "Café Gloria" will get you a Cognac spiked coffee.
Looking at this extensive selection of hot coffee cocktails across Europe, it seems only natural that Ireland has its own variation. In the 1940s, Joe Sheridan, a bartender who worked at Foynes Port, started the victory march of this Irish coffee cocktail. When he served the drink to American customers on a cold winter evening, one of the guests wondered if he had actually given them Brazilian coffee. The cheeky reply from Sheridan gave the drink its name when he stated that "it's an Irish Coffee".
The beginning of a success story in the US
It took a while until the drink gained popularity within and outside of Ireland. And then, it also took some help from a well-known American travel writer, Stanton Delaplane. Delaplane enjoyed his very first Irish coffee in 1947. A few years later, he tried to recreate the drink in one of his favorite bars in San Francisco, the Buena Vista Café.
Together with bar owner Jack Koeppler, Delaplane tried to nail Sheridan's recipe. But after countless attempts, the two of them couldn't get behind the exact formula. The taste was not on point, and the cream float wouldn't stay on top but started to mix too fast. As Delaplane didn't have sufficient bartending knowledge, he missed the fine details on how to build the drink.
Eventually, Jack Koeppler took matters into his own hands and flew to Ireland to investigate the secret about this delicious coffee drink. He returned with the knowledge and some tutoring by a local dairy owner. And so it happened that Koeppler finally found the perfect way to make this drink.
And even today, the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf is famous for its Irish Coffee. On a good day, the bar serves more than 2.000 of those hot and creamy drinks.
Variations on Irish Coffee
As the drink became popular, more and more variations of Irish Coffee popped up. I listed some of the more popular twists below:
- Mexican Coffee: Made with Kahlúa and Tequila
- Spanish Coffee: Made with Kahlúa and Rum
- Chocolate-hazelnut Coffee: Made with Frangelico and Kahlúa
- Café Amore: Made with Amaretto and Brandy
- Kioke Coffee: Made with coffee liqueur and Brandy
The perfect Ingredients
As we now know from the experiences of Delaplane and Koeppler, it requires some attention to detail to nail this cocktail. Starting with the ingredients, a delicious Irish Whiskey is essential for the resulting cocktail. Bushmills and Jameson are good choices, but my personal favorite is Teeling.
The right choice of syrup will help to lift this cocktail from good to excellent. So instead of the regular simple sugar syrup, I recommend using a rich Demerara syrup (ratio 2:1). The taste of this syrup is much richer and creates a better mouthfeel and an intenser taste.
The final touch is the whipped cream. For this, you should warm up the cream slightly. Then whisk or aerate the cream until it holds together so you can float it on top of your cocktail. Et Voila, you have all you need to create an exceptional Irish Coffee.
- 1 Jigger
- 2 oz Hot filter coffee
- 1 oz Irish Whiskey
- 0.25 oz Rich Demerara syrup
- 1 oz Heavy cream
- Grated nutmeg
- Warm up your Irish Coffee glass by filling it with hot water. Set the glass aside.
- Now prepare your whipped cream. Slightly warm the cream and whisk it until the consistency seems right.1 oz Heavy cream
- Then empty your warmed glass and pour in the Whiskey, syrup, and coffee.1 oz Irish Whiskey, 0.25 oz Rich Demerara syrup, 2 oz Hot filter coffee
- Briefly stir the mix and then float it with your prepared cream.
- Optionally grate some fresh nutmeg on top of the whipped cream before your serve the drink.Grated nutmeg