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Our delectable dinner at the Granville Hotel in Waterford ended with a lesson in how to make an Irish coffee. But not just any Irish coffee. When a hostess arrived to show us an easy way to make it, our tour guide Mick broke out a bottle of Jameson Irish whiskey. You can't make Irish Coffee without it.
The origin of Irish coffee – it's all about the whiskey
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, western 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. He knew from experience that a cup of coffee just wouldn’t do the job, so he decided to warm the passengers up a bit with a new concoction.
When the passengers asked if they were being served Brazilian coffee, Sheridan shook his head and told them it was “Irish coffee”. It was a huge hit.
What Irish coffee is made from
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:
- 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 any good in the coffee, either.
Is Jameson brand required?
Dan and I are the first ones to tell you that we're not fond of whiskeys, scotches or bourbons. We had never tried Jameson before, and to be honest, we were shocked that we actually liked it.
Anyway, this is why I specifically mentioned Jameson Irish Whiskey in this article. It's not a snub to any other Irish distiller, but we only mention companies we have first-hand experience with.
Tip: If you work at Bushmills or another distillery, let us know. We'll be happy to visit and then share our experience on this blog.
Recipe for 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.
Most recipes specify heavy cream, and some say that lightly whipping it helps to keep it afloat. The fresh cream we used at Granville had been whipped so perfectly that we could just plop thick spoons-full on top.
How our Irish coffee lesson turned out
The coffees were delicious, but I was so horrified to see them using instant coffee instead of fresh brewed that just I couldn’t bring myself to finish it. Blecch. Gag. Our guide Mitch kindly gave me a hefty dose of Jameson to compensate. Must. Hire. Him. Again.
Dan, however, is nowhere near the coffee snob that I am. He had no problem with devouring every drop of his creation.
Irish coffee variations
While everyone was making and enjoying the coffee, the conversations 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.
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
Tip: If you are using 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.
Okay, you saw the fun we had, now here's how Jameson makes Irish Coffee
After you watch this video, continue scrolling down for more on making it yourself.