How to Make Irish Coffee – Classic Recipe and History

Irish Coffee waiting to be served - The Irish Place
Irish Coffee waiting to be served.

You can make Irish coffee fairly easily at home. It is the perfect after dinner drink to serve to party guests.

The inaugural serving at Foynes Flying Boat airport gives the history of Irish Coffee its charm. It is truly one of the most classic drinks to leave Irish shores.

By the way it is not the coffee beans that are Irish – it is the whiskey! 😉

How to Make Irish Coffee

How to Make Irish Coffee - The Irish PlaceIngredients

  • 1 Cup of Freshly Brewed Quality Hot Coffee
  • Heavy Cream, Slight Whipped
  • Jameson Irish Whiskey 1.5 Oz.
  • 2 Teaspoons of Brown Sugar


Here’s how to make Irish coffee:

  1. Start by using hot water to pre-heat a stemmed glass. Throw the water away.
  2. Fill the glass to out three quarters full with hot, strong black coffee and two teaspoons of brown sugar.
  3. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved then add one measure of good Irish whiskey (Jameson or Bushmills will be the perfect compliment), stirring again.
  4. Once the coffee has settled, pour some gently whipped cream over the back of a hot spoon into the brew.

The result should look a little like a glass of Guinness, another of Ireland’s favourite brews!

The key to a great result, with this as with other coffee and cream based drinks, is in the quality of the ingredients.

There will probably be some trial and error involved in finding the right whiskey and fiddling about to get the correct consistency of whipped cream before you perfect your Irish coffee technique.

It will be well worth it – the result is one of the best and most sophisticated cream based drinks in the world.

Irish Coffee Recipe Variations

Maple Syrup Irish Coffee

For a sweeter version add in 1/2 Oz. of maple syrup into the coffee and whip in another 1/2 Oz. into the cream before floating the cream on the top.

Baileys Irish Coffee

Using the above classic recipe – either add an extra shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream along with the whiskey or swap out the whiskey for the Bailey’s.

Chocolate Irish Coffee

Add in chocolate syrup to the coffee to taste. Don’t forget to sprinkle to coco powder on top of the cream before serving to finish it off.

History of Irish Coffee

The history of Irish coffee shows just how well you can make a virtue out of necessity.

This doyenne of cream based drinks was created by a chef, Joe Sheridan of the Brendan O’Regan Restaurant at the Foynes Flying Boat airport terminal building.

Late on one cold, wintry night in 1943, a flight destined for Botwood in Newfoundland was forced by bad weather to return to Foynes.

The miserable passengers were ushered into the terminal’s restaurant where the chef decided a shot of good Irish whiskey would add an excellent warming touch to their coffee.

He embellished the idea with a little brown sugar and a topping of whipped cream, and the embattled passengers loved it.

Americans Begin to Make Irish Coffee

The drink became standard fare at Foynes and later was also served to VIPs landing at Shannon Airport, Ireland’s main gateway to the USA after Foynes was closed.

The story continued as travel writer Stanton Delaplane decide to make Irish Coffee for Jack Koeppler of San Francisco’s Buena Vista Hotel.

Koeppler experimented with the original and a variety of cream based drinks before travelling to Ireland to perfect his technique.

In 1952, Joe Sheridan left Ireland for San Francisco to work at the Buena Vista. The Buena Vista went on to become the hub of the Irish coffee story.

The trick was in the perfect whipped cream, which had to be matured for 48 hours to ensure that it would float and froth happily on the surface of the glass instead of sink to the bottom.

The Buena Vista is still famous for its Irish coffees and brews up to 2,000 of them per day. Joe Sheridan’s original recipe is still used there.

Credits: Photos appear courtesy of Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum

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