For the Classic Irish Coffee recipe, as well as some delicious and unusual variations, then check out our Irish Coffee recipes in our Food & Whiskey section.
Irish Coffee is internationally famous and a favourite after dinner drink throughout the world. It was invented at Foynes, a small town in the West of Ireland, and compared to Irish whiskey, its history is relatively recent.
Foynes was an airbase near Limerick, in fact it was the main airport for Flying Boats between America and Europe. By 1940, the airport was handling many passengers, including many American VIP's from the world of politics and Hollywood. Weather conditions along the West coast of Ireland can be notoriously bad, and often what was supposed to be just a stopover for refuelling turned into an overnight stay. In 1942 a new restaurant opened, which had the task of catering for the many important passengers passing through Foynes and present a very positive image of Ireland and its people to the world.
The new restaurant came under the responsibility of a young Irish Chef, Joe Sheridan. One winter night, in 1942, a flight left Foynes for Botwood in Newfoundland and then on to New York. After several hours of battling a storm, the pilot decided to turn back to Foynes - which was unfortunately not an unusual occurrence. As always, the restaurant was informed to prepare food and drink, as passengers would be cold and tired.
Joe Sheridan decided to prepare something special to warm the passengers up. He brewed dark, rich coffee, added in some Irish whiskey, a little brown sugar and floated freshly whipped cream on top of each cup. The story goes that there was a hushed silence as people drank this brew for the first time. "Hey Buddy," said a surprised American passenger, "is this Brazilian coffee?" "No," said Joe, "that's Irish Coffee."
The coffee was such a success that Joe made it a regular part of the menu in Foynes. Irish Coffee may never have become an international success, had the travel writer, Stanton Delaplane, not brought the recipe back to Jack Koeppler, a bartender at the Buena Vista Hotel in San Francisco. They attempted to recreate it, but without much success. Apparently, the cool cream on top kept sinking. Undeterred, Joe Koeppler travelled to Ireland to learn the correct way to make it. As fate would have it, by 1945 the era of the Flying Boat was coming to an end and Foynes closed in order to make way for landplanes. A new airport was opened on the other side of the Shannon Estuary - Shannon International Airport. Joe Sheridan, now working in Shannon, took his famous drink to the new airport and worked there until 1952, when the Buena Vista Cafe offered him a position. Joe is still fondly remembered in Shannon and the story of Irish Coffee is commemorated in the Foynes Flying Boat Museum.
The rest, as they say, is history. The Buena Vista is still famous throughout the United States for its Irish Coffees. It is said they make 2,000 Irish Coffees daily and for many years, they even had a special Buena Vista Irish whiskey distilled for them in Midleton. They now use the famous Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey.
Here is the original Joe Sheridan Irish Coffee Recipe:
Cream - Rich as an Irish Brogue
Coffee - Strong as a Friendly Hand
Sugar - Sweet as the tongue of a Rogue
Whiskey - Smooth as the Wit of the Land.
Pre-heat a clear stemmed glass with very hot water. Empty the water, and add 2 teaspoons of brown sugar. Now add some freshly brewed rich coffee and stir. As soon as the sugar is melted, add a generous measure of Irish Whiskey (about 2.5cl). Stir again, then wait for the brew to still. Now take a hot teaspoon and pour gently whipped fresh cream slowly over the back of the spoon. The cream should be "half whipped" i.e. not too stiff and not too liquid. A perfect Irish Coffee should look pretty much like that other famous Irish drink - Guinness!
Our recommendation is to try out several different Irish whiskeys for your Irish Coffees and see which you like best...