How to Brew

How to Make An Original Irish Coffee: Step-By-Step Recipe


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It’s not difficult to find a cup of coffee that packs a sweet flavor and a heaping helping of spunk. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that does it quite as well as Irish coffee. 

You don’t have to travel to Ireland to experience this strong coffee cocktail. So, put your passport away and head to the kitchen; we’ll tell you how to whip up the after-dinner drink in the comfort of your own home. 

irish coffee

What is Irish Coffee?

Sure, we love the Irish coffee cocktail’s warm, savory flavor. But we appreciate the strong tradition behind the drink, too. 

Chef Joe Sheridan invented the original Irish coffee one chilly evening in 1943. He was working at Foynes Airbase Port in Ireland’s Limerick County, and there was an air flight that, after making half of its journey, had to return to Foynes Port. 

Several of the flight’s passengers, understandably tired and cranky from the unexpected delay, ended up at the terminal restaurant where Sheridan was working. He wanted to cheer the weary travelers up, so he made them a special java drink: hot coffee, a shot of whiskey, and lightly whipped heavy cream.

Was it Brazilian coffee, the passengers wanted to know. But nope, Sheridan proudly replied, it was “Irish coffee,” and — probably unbeknownst to Sheridan at the time — this little drink would be sipped for decades to come. 

Luck of the Irish (Coffee)

The coffee drink with a grown-up twist became something Sheridan regularly served at Foynes Port; it eventually grew in popularity and became one of the flying boat terminal’s specialty drinks. After World War II, the drink continued rising in popularity. It even made its way to the United States in the early 1950s when Stanton Delaplane, a travel writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, asked Buena Vista Hotel bartender Jack Koeppler to recreate it. 

Unfortunately, Koeppler’s version wasn’t quite right. But he was determined to make the Irish coffee correctly, so he flew to where it all began for a lesson from the master himself. Sheridan was happy to help, and he even moved to San Francisco later to help spread the good news of Irish coffee to the American people. 

Since then, many variations of the drink and its origin story have spread across the globe. However, we’ll be basing our recipe on the classic version presumably invented by Sheridan. 

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How to Make a Classic Irish Coffee

Irish Coffee
@roastycoffee Pro tip: drink this in the morning if you’re hungover #irishcoffee #coffeetoktok ♬ Darling – Trees and Lucy

Now that we touched on where this drink came from, we have to address the million-dollar question: how do you make an Irish coffee? Fortunately for you, we have the answer, starting with the ingredients you need to follow this simple cocktail recipe. 

You’ll Need:

  • Irish coffee glass*
  • Freshly brewed coffee 
  • Granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 ounces of Irish whiskey
  • Whipped cream

*Most bars use an Irish coffee mug to serve this spiked brew. For a more authentic experience, however, we recommend investing in a set of San Francisco Irish coffee glasses. But don’t fret if you don’t have either of these cups; any heatproof glass or mug will do. 

The Process

Step One

The first thing to do is pre-heat your serving glass. Pour hot water into the glass. Then, let it sit for about 10 to 15 seconds before dumping it out. 

Step Two

Next, scoop a bit of sugar into the cup. You can use plain sugar if you prefer, but most people use brown sugar or a combination of it and regular sugar, as brown sugar adds a delicious hint of caramel sweetness. Ultimately, though, the choice is yours; all that matters is that you enjoy the finished product.

adding brown sugar and fresh coffee

Fill about two-thirds of your cup with freshly brewed coffee and stir the mixture until the granulated sugar crystals dissolve. 

You can use whatever brewing method and coffee you want to make your joe. However, we highly recommend pulling out the French press and a bag of medium or dark-roasted coffee beans. The beloved immersion brewer creates a full-bodied cup that can stand up to whiskey.

And speaking of whiskey…

Step three

It’s time to spike your coffee! 

You might be tempted to reach for any old brown liquor, but you’re doing yourself a grave disservice if you don’t use real Irish whiskey. Teeling and Jameson are our Irish whiskeys of choice, but it would be wise for you to do some research before settling on a bottle of booze to blend with your coffee. 

adding Irish whiskey and whipped cream

Once you’ve added the whiskey to your cup of regular or decaf coffee, top the beverage with a dollop of whipped cream. You can use storebought whipped cream for your homemade coffee drink, but it only takes a few minutes to make your own, and you might be surprised at what a difference it makes. 

All you need is heavy cream, a whisk, and a little elbow grease to make whipped cream; beat the cream until it incorporates enough air to become light and fluffy, and you’re done. 

Step four

You might top the finished drink with a dash of nutmeg or cinnamon, but that’s optional. Whether you garnish your Irish coffee with a bit of spice or not, there’s only one thing left to do: sip away!

Irish Coffee Variations

Traditional Irish coffee has four common ingredients —whiskey, coffee, sugar, and cream — and when you mix them all together, you end up with a sweet, robust, thick, and creamy beverage that can warm you from the inside out. However, it’s always fun to switch up the classic drink recipe and add a twist here and there. Some of our favorite ways to keep things fresh are to:

Use different kinds of liquor

If you want to stay on the theme of coffee and alcohol but don’t feel like dipping into your Irish whiskey collection, there are plenty of other spirits you can mix with your java.

Take Amaretto, for example. It’s not Irish, but adding a splash of the almond-flavored Italian liqueur to your mug of black coffee and topping it with whipped cream provides a boozy dose of dessert in a cup — so good! Kahlua coffee — Kahlua liqueur, coffee, cream, and whipped cream — is also among the classic recipes cocktail lovers turn to when they want to pack their Sunday brunch beverages with a kick of caffeine. 

Try different sweeteners

Just because brown sugar isn’t your vibe doesn’t mean you have to settle for a drink with an ultra-bitter coffee taste. Use an alternative sweetener, like white sugar, maple syrup, or even honey.

Add different flavors

One of the best things about the simplicity of the Irish coffee recipe is that it leaves plenty of room for add-ins. 

When autumn rolls around, jazz up your Irish coffee with pumpkin spice. Stir a dash of the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice mixture into the cream, or pour a splash of pumpkin spice syrup into the coffee and whiskey. 

Not feeling very pumpkin spice-y? That’s OK; plenty of other flavorings, like mint and hazelnut, pair nicely with the cocktail. 

Bring out the Bailey’s

If you want to make your drink extra fun, you can always use Bailey’s Irish Cream instead of whiskey (or with whiskey…) Begin by brewing your coffee as usual. Then, add a splash of Bailey’s, and top the mixture off with whipped cream. Whether enjoying your drink hot or cold, a little bit of Bailey’s can make your cocktail smooth, creamy, sweet, and delicious.

Cool things down

As much as we love a piping hot cup of joe, we know plenty of people prefer their coffee cups — or Irish coffee mugs, in this instance — filled with ice cubes. Using a serving of cold brew coffee rather than regular hot java is a simple yet effective way to change your everyday cup of Irish coffee; served cold, this creamy cocktail is a refreshing treat.

Garnish it 

A dollop of fluffy whipped cream dresses up any caffeinated coffee drink beautifully, but if you need your beverage to have even more pizazz, you have plenty of garnish options from which to choose.

Garnish with coffee beans, chocolate shavings, a drizzle of chocolate syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, mint, or caramel sauce — the options are almost endless!

Skip the cream

You don’t have to add a layer of cream to your Irish coffee. No, it’s not technically Irish coffee without it, but whiskey and coffee alone make quite the dynamic duo. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Which whiskey is best for Irish coffee? 

Whiskey is arguably the most significant part of Irish coffee, so make sure you pick a good one. There are lots of quality Irish whiskeys on the market, but Jameson Black Barrel whiskey is one of the most popular picks. It’s smooth as it goes down the gullet, and it boasts a sweet and nutty flavor profile that complements the taste of your coffee well. 

Is Irish coffee an American thing? 

Irish coffee isn’t a strictly American drink. The cocktail is well-loved in the country after which it was named, but most locals are more likely to order a beer instead. Irish coffees are typically reserved for tourists, special occasions, or chilly winter evenings. 

Take a chance on Irish coffee!

Irish coffee is a classic drink that every coffee lover should try at least once. Not only do you get to enjoy a delicious, sweet, creamy cup of coffee, but you also enjoy a beloved drink many others have enjoyed for a long time. Whether you drink it the traditional style or switch it up, there’s a version of Irish coffee that almost everyone can enjoy. 

Happy Caffeinating!

How to Make An Original Irish Coffee

How to Make An Original Irish Coffee

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Irish Coffee isn't your average cup of joe. Not only is it a spunky coffee beverage that is loved by coffee consumers around the world, but it's sweet in flavor and also has a nice spike of whiskey. The great news is that you don't have to travel to Ireland to try this savory drink--you can make it in the comfort of your own kitchen!

Ingredients

  • Irish coffee glass*
  • Freshly brewed coffee 
  • Granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 ounces of Irish whiskey
  • Whipped cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat your Irish Coffee Glass with hot water.
  2. Brew 4 ounces of drip coffee.
  3. Scoop a bit of sugar into the cup.
  4. Pour in 4 oz freshly brewed coffee.
  5. Add 1.5 oz whiskey.
  6. Finally, add your whipped cream as a garnish. Enjoy!
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 6 oz
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 240Total Fat: 10g
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