Food for Thought: Irish Coffee’s Stormy Origins

It was a dark and stormy night. After spending a few hours navigating through rough darkness, the captain of a flight full of American passengers made the call to return to the small airbase in Foynes, Ireland where they’d taken off.

Joe Sheridan, the head chef of the Foynes kitchen, received a request to whip something up to warm the bodies and spirits of the frustrated passengers.

Sheridan – quick on his feet – got to work. As the weary travelers walked into the terminal, he greeted them with glass goblets full of piping hot coffee and a thick layer of cream floating on the top. 

As they sipped the coffee through the sweet cream, they were delighted by another surprise – the warm, oaken bite of Irish whiskey, mixed with a bit of sugar.

So the legend goes, when a man asked Sheridan if he’d served them Brazilian coffee, Sheridan laughed and said “No – it’s Irish coffee.”

That was in 1943, and Irish coffee, perhaps one of the greatest airport foods ever, is still enjoyed around the world today. 

While the cocktail only consists of 4 ingredients, it’s signature look, achieved by floating lightly-whipped heavy cream on top of the black coffee, completely confounded the 2 men responsible for bringing it to the United States. 

That story begins nearly a decade later in 1951, when travel writer Stan Delaphane tasted an Irish coffee at the Foynes terminal. As soon as he returned home to San Francisco, he rushed to the Buena Vista bar to convince the establishment’s owner, Jack Koeppler, to start serving the drink.

So the legend goes, the pair spent all night trying to recreate the drink from Delaphane’s memory – only for the heavy cream to always sink to the bottom of the glass. Frustrated, they eventually flew in Chef Sheridan himself to show them how it was done. 

Fast forward to now: the Buena Vista has become iconic for its Irish coffee, sometimes going through up to 2,000 bottles of Irish whiskey a day. 

So, before you add green food coloring to your beer, consider toasting to Saint Patrick’s Day with an actual Irish treasure. Below, you’ll find the recipe for both a traditional as well as a non-alcoholic version of this Irish dessert drink.



Original Irish Coffee

Ingredients:

4 ounces of hot coffee (medium or dark roast)

A teaspoon, or 2 cubes, of brown sugar

1 ½ ounces of Irish whiskey 

1 cup heavy cream

1 clove nutmeg (optional)

Directions:

 1. Fill a hot toddy glass or heat resistant glass with hot water and let warm for a few minutes.

 2. Lightly whip heavy cream until thickened with no peaks. Once whipped, pour cream into a measuring cup. 

 3. Pour out water – add sugar to glass. 

 4. Add hot coffee to glass, leaving about 2 inches from the rim; stir

 5. Add whiskey; stir.

 6. Slowly pour heavy cream over the back of a bar spoon into the top of the glass.

 7. Optional: Grate nutmeg on top of cream. 


Non-Alcoholic Irish Coffee

Ingredients:

4 ounces of hot coffee (medium or dark roast)

A teaspoon, or 2 cubes, of brown sugar

1 cup Irish coffee creamer 

1 clove nutmeg (optional)

Directions:

 1. Fill a hot toddy glass or heat resistant glass with hot water and let warm for a few minutes.

 2. Lightly whip Irish coffee creamer until thickened with no peaks. Once whipped, pour cream into a measuring cup. 

 3. Pour out water – add sugar to glass. 

 4. Add hot coffee to glass, leaving about 2 inches from the rim; stir

 5. Slowly pour heavy cream over the back of a bar spoon into the top of the glass.

 6. Optional: Grate nutmeg on top of cream. 

Celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day at home this year? Add the 4 ingredients you’ll need for Irish coffees to your next Shipt order! 

St. Patrick’s Day and every day, enjoy responsibly. Must be 21+ with valid ID to order or receive alcohol. Alcohol delivery varies by location.

Category: Drinks

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