Our delectable dinner at the Granville Hotel in Waterford ended with a lesson in how to make 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. At least, a traditional one.
Jameson’s is truly the classic Irish whiskey. But Teeling or Bushmills Black Bush can be used, too. So, it's all good.
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 is in 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 not by much.
Irish coffee is traditionally served in a stemmed glass coffee mug. It always contains these 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
For the full Irish Coffee presentation, you'll need Irish Coffee mugs. BUY THEM HERE.
- 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 stemmed glass coffee mug and pour some boiling water into it. (The spoon reduces the chance that the glass will crack, but be careful!) Swirl the water around to warm the mug and dump 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 helps the cream float on top, so don’t try to use artificial sweetener.)
- Hold the spoon just above the surface of the coffee. Slowly pour the cream onto the spoon. The cream will 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, while some advise that lightly whipping it will help it float. The fresh cream we used at Granville had been whipped so perfectly that we could just plop thick spoons-full on top.
How to make non alcoholic Irish coffee
If you're not a drinker, you can make Irish coffee without the alcohol. Most people skip the whiskey and substitute ¾ tsp of rum or brandy extract.
That said, rum and brandy don't have nearly the same flavor as whiskey. You can make it more authentic by using whiskey flavored ground coffee. BUY IT HERE
We prefer to call this drink an Irish virgin.
How our Irish coffee lesson turned out
The coffees were delicious! Sadly, 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 relished devouring every drop of his creation.
Alcoholic coffee cocktails
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.
Just for fun, here are a few more hot coffee cocktails you can create. They have different names when you use another liquor instead. For instance, if you add both Bailey's Irish Cream and Irish whiskey to coffee, you'll have a Bailey's Irish coffee.
- 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
If you know of any others, please share them in the comments.
ⓘ TIP: If you are using a sweet liqueur such as Tia Maria, you won’t need to add sugar. The liqueur will have enough sugar to keep the cream afloat.
Books about alcoholic hot drinks: