Irish coffee is a very tasty coffee hot beverage which is seasonal in Ireland (St. Patrick’s Day). For me is a delicious wintertime pleasure. It’s a delight, both as a cocktail and as a style of java; just sugar, whisky, cream and, of course, coffee. Very simple, very indulgent and very delicious.
Its rich blend of nutty, strong bitter coffee, caramel or brown sugar and Irish whiskey that makes such a pleasing contrast to the cool, loosely whipped layer of cream on top, give me a great pleasure every time I drink it.
The story of Irish coffee begins about 1943 when a flight a flight from Shannon Airport was cancelled and a local head chef, decided to comfort the freezing passengers by adding whisky to the coffee he was serving them. He also said them that it was not a Brazilian coffee but Irish.
After a while an American travel writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, tasted the coffee at Shannon Airport and brought it to Buena Vista Café in San Francisco. The coffee sold in millions because of the continual mentions of the drink in the travel writer widely-read travel column. Today they claim to serve as many as 2,000 Irish coffees on busy days.
As with so many classic drinks, however, it has suffered numerous indignities over the years, not least the sickly green “crème de menthe” often drizzled over the top.
The recipe itself is not complicated; however, the ingredients must be ready and every step must be strictly followed. The cream must be pourable and not over-whipped, the coffee or espresso must be very hot and strong to fight the strong taste of sugar, alcohol and cream, and the whole thing, once prepared must not be stirred. The hot liquid is to be drunk through the cold cream, which floats prettily above it and will leave you with an amazing moustache after each sip.
My tip to you is the pouring of the cream over the back of a teaspoon, a technique warranting that the heavy cream spreads and remains sitting over the surface of the coffee. The first time I tried it was a little difficult. That’s why try it few times to become experience. Another secret is to ensure the coffee is very hot and the cream very cold and not too thickly whipped for better results.
If you believe: it’s about as far from being ‘healthy’ as it’s possible to get, the Irish coffee is not something to have every single day. However, it’s a great drink to have as a small pleasure luxury on and off specially in winter – enjoy!
Irish Coffee: Basic Recipe
- 1 cup very hot black coffee or espresso if you want a stronger coffee taste
- 1-2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 shot Irish whiskey (1 1/2 ounces or 3 tablespoons)
- Heavy cream, slightly whipped
Heat a tall, secure glass (with a stem normally) with boiling water.
Pour away the water. Add the sugar and coffee and stir until completely dissolved.
Whether you take sugar in your coffee or not, it is essential here, and not just for flavour.
Add the whisky to the coffee and stir again.
From a cream carafe with a spout, pour gently your slightly whipped cream, and over the back of a teaspoon, over the surface of the coffee until you hit the edge of the glass. Serve hot.
Irish Coffee Variation 1: with Baileys
Replace the Irish Whisky with a mixture of 50% Irish Whisky and 50% Baileys
All others are exactly the same as the basic recipe.
Irish Coffee Variation 2: with Baileys and Kahlua
Another approach to the alcohol content of the coffee is also fascinating; while in basic recipe we mix whiskey alone, I add 1/3 whiskey, 1/3 Baileys and 1/3 Kahlua into the coffee. All the rest are the same as in the basic recipe. There is no doubt that the other two flavours work also well, but I believe they’re very much optional extras, whereas the whiskey should be the star attraction!