Irish Coffee: A Toast to St. Patrick!

Imagine a cold rainy night at the Foynes Airbase in Limerick, Ireland in the 1940s.  A Pan Am flying boat lands and a group of shivering American passengers disembark.  The chef at the airport restaurant offers them hot coffee.  Because of the miserable weather, he decides to spike the coffee with whiskey to warm them up. The Americans ask if they are being served Brazilian coffee to which the chef replies promptly, “No, this is Irish coffee.”*  Thus, the origin of the most popular beverage for departing and arriving passengers at what became the Shannon Airport.

Fast forward to the 1950s when a travel writer, Stanton Delaplane, brought the beverage to the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco where he worked with the bar owners to recreate the Irish way of serving it with cream floating on the top. It is still being served the same way today in this landmark Fisherman’s Wharf café.  Here’s how to make your own.

You will need a clear glass mug or Irish coffee glass.


Freshly brewed hot coffee

2 teaspoons brown sugar (or raw sugar)

1 shot (3 tablespoons) Irish whiskey

Lightly whipped cream


To start off, you will need to fill your empty glass with hot water to preheat the glass. After you fill it, let it preheat the glass for a few seconds and then empty. Follow by pouring the freshly brewed coffee into the glass until it is about three quarters of the way filled. Then, place the two teaspoons of sugar into the mix. Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved.   Add the shot of your favorite Irish whiskey.   Stir again. Using a warm spoon, flip it over, and let the homemade whipped cream carefully slide over the spoon’s back and onto your Irish coffee mixture. You want to make sure that the whipped cream does not break into the Irish coffee’s surface.  Your palate gets the coffee/whiskey mixture through the wonderful cream. Cheers!

Saint Patrick was a gentleman,
Who through strategy and stealth,
Drove all the snakes from Ireland,
Here’s a toasting to his health.
But not too many toastings
Lest you lose yourself and then
Forget the good Saint Patrick
And see all those snakes again.

*Some sources credit Joe Sheridan with the invention and others credit Daveina Davidson.

Photo by Michael Kirigin


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