There is nothing more warming and delicious on a cold winter’s eve than Irish coffee, a deceptively simple concoction that is both an elegant cocktail as well as a coffee drink. Made from piping hot strong coffee, sweetened with sugar and fortified with quality Irish whiskey, the drink is finished off with a layer of rich, cool cream floating on top, reminiscent of the foamy head on a glass of good Irish stout.
While you might think the origin of Irish whiskey is lost in the mists of the Emerald Isle, this drink is actually quite a recent invention. Late one winter’s night in 1943, a commercial airline flight left Foynes airport in County Limerick, Ireland, bound for Newfoundland. After flying for several hours, the weather became uncooperative and deeming conditions unsafe, the captain made the decision to return to Foynes. The crew relayed a Morse code message back to the tower and airport staff, including the workers from the airport’s restaurant, were immediately notified to come back to work.
When the plane finally arrived, the passengers were taken to Brendan O’Regan’s airport restaurant for some warming food and drink. Luckily for them (and as it turns out, for us as well!) Chef Joe Sheridan was waiting and when he was asked to make something warm for the chilled and weary travelers, he decided to fortify their coffees with good Irish whiskey. The passengers loved it!
A few weeks later, Chef Sheridan brought his new coffee cocktail into the office of his boss, presented in a gleaming stemmed glass. The drink was an instant hit, not only at the airport but quickly spread to other restaurants.
Soon after, an American travel writer, Stanton Delaplane, was treated to an Irish Coffee at Shannon Airport. He was so enamored of the drink that he helped test the recipe back home in California in an effort to float the cream on top in exactly the way he had experienced it in Ireland. Finally, Irish Coffee was given a place on the menu at San Francisco’s Buena Vista Café, where it proved to be hugely popular, helped along by Delaplane frequently mentioning it in his travel column.
The recipe for Irish Coffee may be simple, but an excellent taste experience demands quality ingredients: strong, hot, aromatic coffee brewed with filtered water, a good Irish Whiskey such as Jameson or Bushmills, heavy cream and Demerara sugar. Although you can serve Irish coffee in many styles of glassware, including these beautiful Irish mugs, [your link here] the traditional stemmed glass as chosen by Chef Joe Sheridan on that freezing night in 1943 makes for a beautiful presentation and honors the heritage of this classic coffee cocktail.
Before you run off to make some Irish coffee, check out this fun video of the professionals at the Buena Vista Cafe, where they pour more Irish Coffees than anywhere in the world, making an astounding 2000 coffees a day and using a whopping 100 bottles of Irish whiskey!