Officially, St Patrick’s Day is a religious feast in celebration of the patron saint of Ireland. It’s been celebrated for hundreds of years, and when Irish immigrants came the United States, they brought the holiday with them.
Over the years, St. Patty’s has morphed into a celebration of all things Irish, and everyone’s welcome to join in the festivities, even if they’re not Irish in the least. We may not close down all the businesses like they do on the Emerald Isle, but we still find plenty of ways to enjoy the holiday. We don green outfits, attend St. Patrick’s Day parades, drink green beer, and enjoy that quintessentially Irish indulgence known as Irish coffee.
As legend has it, a chef named Joe Sheridan created the first recipe for Irish coffee. Back in the 1940s, visitors to Ireland would arrive by Pan Am flying boat. On a particularly dreary winter evening, Sheridan treated the arriving visitors to cups of coffee with just a dash of Irish whiskey added in to warm their bellies.
The new arrivals wanted to know if the coffee was Brazilian, and with typical Irish pride, Sheridan informed them that no, it was Irish coffee. Stanton Delaplane, a travel writer based in San Francisco, brought Irish coffee to the States. In collaboration with the owners of the Buena Vista Café, he taste-tested the recipe until it was just right – a feat that cost him dearly in the morning.
Since its invention, many Irish coffee recipes have been concocted, but purists say the best way to make it is to keep it simple. So, without further ado, let’s make a classic Irish coffee.
Start with Quality Coffee
You wouldn’t drink bad coffee on any other day, so why would you use it in your Irish coffee recipe?
- First, you brew a pot of strong, high quality coffee. A dark roast is generally preferable to a light or medium one, as most of the acidity will have burned off, leaving only rich, smoky flavor that will pair nicely with the belly-warming mellowness of Irish whiskey.
- Some coffee lovers prefer their coffee sans sweetener, but Irish coffee should be an exception. While regular white sugar will do the trick, the pros opt for soft brown sugar for its richness and easy solubility.
Bring on the Whiskey
First things first: it’s Irish whiskey or nothing. True, you could probably make a delicious coffee drink with bourbon or rye, but it wouldn’t really be an Irish coffee. We’re not going to sound off on the Bushmill’s vs. Jameson debate in this article, either. Use whichever you prefer, or another bona-fide Irish whiskey of your choice.
Getting the Cream Just Right
If you’ve tried to make Irish coffee before, then you may have found getting the cream to float on top to be a real challenge. The secret? Heavy whipping cream, chilled and whisked until it’s just thick enough that it has a nice, frothy texture, but not so thick that it won’t pour.
Here We Go
Okay, with all of our ingredients in place, we’re ready to get started.
- With our coffee hot and waiting, we’ll pre-heat suitable glasses with hot water.
- Next, we’ll whisk about two tablespoons of cream per drink.
- Then, we’ll empty the nice, toasty glasses and refill with a standard one-ounce shot of Irish whiskey, into which we’ll stir a tablespoon of brown sugar.
- Now, we’re ready for the coffee. Make sure to leave an inch of room at the top for the cream.
- Pour the cream gently over the back of a cold tablespoon to allow it to flow gradually and gently onto the surface of the coffee. If you’re so inclined, top the cream with a dash of freshly ground nutmeg for flavor and flair. Enjoy!