Our delectable dinner at the Granville Hotel in Waterford ended with a lesson in how to make an Irish coffee. When one of the hostesses arrived to show us how to make it ourselves, our tour guide Mick broke out a bottle of Jameson Irish whiskey.
(Apologies for any photos that look a little blurry; I had to pull hem from video clips.)
How it all started
Legend has it that the original Irish coffee was invented in the 1940s by Joe Sheridan, who worked at an air terminal in County Limerick, in the west of Ireland. On a rainy, blustery winter evening a small group of American passengers disembarked from a Pan Am Clipper, after having unsuccessfully tried for 10 hours to reach Canada.
Sheridan saw how cold, wet and miserable they were and knew from experience that a cup of coffee just wouldn’t do the job. He decided to warm the passengers up a bit with a new concoction. It was a huge hit.
After the passengers asked if they were being served Brazilian coffee, Sheridan shook his head and told them it was “Irish coffee”.
How to make Jameson Irish coffee
Google “how to make Irish coffee” and you’ll find a slew of different recipes. The amounts may differ and the procedure may vary, but they all are served in the same stemmed glass coffee mug and they all contain the same four ingredients: whiskey, sugar, hot coffee, and heavy cream.
That said, it’s amazing how many Irish bars and restaurants have no clue how to make a good Irish coffee. If you order one and it’s not a beautiful, layered creation, they didn’t make it right.
One thing to note about the whiskey: Never let them serve you budget whiskey. If it isn’t good enough to drink on its own, it’s not going to be good in the coffee, either. Dan and I are the first ones to tell you that we’re not fond of whiskey, scotch or bourbon. We had never tried Jameson before and we actually liked it (which is why I titled this post “How to Make Jameson Irish Coffee”).
- 2 oz Jameson whiskey
- 2 tsp turbinado sugar (known to the Irish as “brown sugar”)
- 6 oz freshly brewed, hot coffee
- heavy cream
- Put a teaspoon into a glass coffee mug (the kind with a stem) and pour some boiling water into it to warm it up. (The spoon is there to reduce the chance that the glass will crack, but be careful!) Swirl the water around and pour it out.
- Pour the whiskey into the glass.
- Add the sugar.
- Add coffee up to within an inch from the rim.
- Stir until all the sugar has dissolved. (The sugar makes the cream float on top, so don’t try to use artificial sweetener.)
- Hold the spoon just above the surface of the coffee. Carefully pour the cream onto the spoon. The cream will slowly flow over the edge of the spoon and rest on top of the coffee. (Now you’ll have a glass of black coffee with a white layer of cream on top.)
- Serve the coffee on a plate with NO SPOON.
- Drink the coffee through the layer of cream.
Trying it ourselves
Most recipes specify heavy cream, and some say that lightly whipping it helps to keep it afloat. The fresh cream we were using at the Granville had been whipped so perfectly that we could just plop spoons-full onto the surface of the coffee. The coffees looked delicious, but I was so horrified to see them using instant coffee instead of fresh brewed that just I couldn’t bring myself to drink it. Blecch. Gag.
Dan, however, is not nearly as much of a coffee snob as I am and had no problem devouring every drop of his creation.
Irish coffee variations
While everyone was making and enjoying the coffee the conversation turned to variations on the theme. So many bars and restaurants have come up with variations that there are entire web pages devoted to hot alcoholic coffee drinks. (By the way: If you are making a specialty coffee with a sweet liqueur such as Tia Maria, you won’t need to add the sugar; the liqueur will have enough sugar to keep the cream afloat.)
Here are a few just for fun. Maybe you can come up with others.
- Scotch whisky – Highland Coffee
- Bailey’s Irish Cream – Bailey’s Coffee
- Drambuie – Bonnie Prince Charlie Coffee
- Cognac – French/Napoleon/Royal Coffee
- Asbach Uralt brandy – Rüdesheimer Coffee
- Tia Maria – Calypso Coffee
- Vodka – Russian Coffee
- Dark rum – Jamaican / Caribbean Coffee
- Tequila & Kahlua – Mexican Coffee
- Brandy & Tia Maria – Spanish Coffee
Do you like coffee? How do you enjoy it best?