The Awesomeness of Irish Coffee

The Awesomeness of Irish Coffee

Two of the biggest things that have literally been helping people make it through life for centuries is coffee and whiskey. So, it’s no wonder that at some point in history some brilliant individual decided to mix the two. One of the earliest known official coffee-whiskey mixes was done in the mid-1800s at coffee houses in Vienna. It wasn’t called Irish Coffee, but the concept was sound, and it hung around.

The term Irish Coffee was coined in the 1940s when air passengers disembarked on a cold night, after landing in Ireland. Chef Joe Sheridan saw the tired lot, and made coffee for the weary travelers, but also added in some whiskey to help warm them up. The Americans asked if they were drinking Brazilian coffee. In what was either the most clever or sarcastic answer in history, Joe Sheridan told them it was Irish Coffee. A writer from the San Francisco Chronicle by the name of Stanton Delaplane was one of the lucky people to get a cup, and he brought it back to the states.

One random and exciting tidbit about Irish Coffee I discovered is that it could help stroke victims. Apparently, both coffee and whiskey have positive effects on neurotransmitters. Who knew? The Irish. That’s who.

It's amazing how many people think pouring a shot of any type of whiskey into ordinary coffee instantly makes it Irish Coffee. That isn’t how it goes. The recipe for Irish Coffee itself is straightforward and easy to make, though there are several variations on the recipe. Here is the most basic one.

2 & 2/3 ounces of hot coffee
1 & 1/3 ounces of Irish Whiskey
1tsp. Brown Sugar, or Two Sugar Cubes
1 ounce of Fresh Crème

Mix the coffee, whiskey, and sugar then warm without boiling it. Top it with the crème, by pouring the crème over the back of a spoon and into the drink. Serve hot. Technically, one can use any whiskey to do this, but if you want an authentic Irish Coffee, use Irish Whiskey. Using Scotch or Bourbon would be like using a metric socket set with standard bolts.

Don’t think things are as simple as this recipe might make you believe. Choosing the right coffee is as important as using fine Irish Whiskey. You wouldn’t use the cheap, plastic bottle stuff in making your Irish Coffee, so don’t use the store brand coffee. Find something with a rich flavor you enjoy. Like with so many cocktails, what you put in it is what you get out of it.

The legacy and popularity of Irish Coffee is only now starting to hit its full stride. We’ve seen things like Kahlúa and Bailey’s become mainstream choices at bars or anywhere mixers are done. Yes, Kahlúa does technically predate Irish Coffee, but not spiked coffee. Irish Coffee has gone from novelty to full-fledged cocktail that has earned the respect of some bartenders, which has also carried over to other spiked coffee recipes. Bars like Fort Defiance in New York take as much care in making their coffee and liquor concoctions as any craft distillery would their spirits.

None of this is all that surprising when you think about it. There is an intense level of passion when it comes to coffee drinkers and whiskey aficionados. Some overlap was bound to happen. I hate to end things on a cliché, but only time will tell if we are at the very beginning of a coffee cocktail movement, or is it only a brief flirtation. Either way, we have Irish Coffee to thank for it being a thing in the first place.