As I finished taping a short TV cooking segment for Mass Appeal, a popular midday talk show that airs weekdays on our local NBC affiliate, I couldn’t wait to take a sip of the Irish coffee I had just demonstrated. Enlivened with a touch of Irish whiskey and topped with a cloud of softly whipped cream, it was heavenly! Some things never go out of style, and classic Irish coffee is one of them.
This coffee has an interesting history that starts in Ireland and finishes on the West Coast of the U.S. As the story goes, the drink was created in the Shannon airport in the mid-twentieth century where it was a restorative offering served to weary passengers. The recipe arrived in the States with a San Franciscan who shared it with his hometown’s Buena Vista Bar. This special coffee became the signature drink of that California bar, and eventually its popularity spread around the globe.
I’ve been making some version of the recipe for more than three decades. And, I always add the cream the way a good friend (a professor of Irish literature) suggested: “Hold a tablespoon with the back facing up over the cup of coffee, and then ladle the cream onto it so it gently falls onto the coffee and floats rather than sinks.” I still do it that way!
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to everyone!
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My Favorite Irish Coffee
2 tablespoons good quality Irish whiskey (Jameson’s works well.)
4 teaspoons sugar
About 1 1/3 cups brewed hot coffee, preferably strong, dark French roast
1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream, softly whipped
1. Place 1 tablespoon of whiskey and 2 teaspoons of sugar in each of two heatproof glasses or cups. Stir with a spoon until sugar dissolves. Pour enough hot coffee into each glass or cup to fill it about 3/4 full. Stir again.
2. Hold a tablespoon (with the back of the spoon facing you) over the coffee in one cup, and ladle 2 to 3 tablespoons of the whipped cream over the spoon so that it gently falls into the coffee. Adding the cream this way will help it float on top of the coffee instead of sinking immediately to the bottom. Repeat with the other serving. Serve immediately. Serves 2
Adapted from Coffee by Betty Rosbottom (Chronicle Books 2006)