When we stayed at the Granville Hotel in Waterford, our delectable dinner 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. Or at least, you can’t make a traditional one.
Jameson’s is truly the classic Irish whiskey. But if you prefer Teeling or Bushmills Black Bush, who am I to judge? As long as you’re using an Irish whiskey, that’s what matters.
The origin of Irish coffee: it’s all about the whiskey
Legend has it that the original Irish coffee was created in the 1940s by Joe Sheridan, a man who worked at an air terminal in County Limerick, western Ireland. On a rainy and 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 personal 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”. Needless to say, it was a huge hit.
What is in Irish coffee?
Do a web search for “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 warmed glass coffee mug.
Irish coffee always contains these ingredients:
- Irish whiskey
- hot coffee, and
- lightly whipped heavy cream.
That said, it’s amazing how many Irish bars and restaurants have no clue how to make a good Irish coffee. If they serve you one that’s not a beautiful, layered creation, they didn’t make it right.
One important thing to note: Never use 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.
ⓘ TIP: For the full Irish Coffee presentation, you’ll need Irish Coffee mugs. BUY THEM ON AMAZON.
Jameson Irish Coffee
- 2 oz Jameson Irish whiskey
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 6 oz freshly brewed hot coffee
- 2 tbsp lightly whipped 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 warmed 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. Gently pour the whipped cream over the back of the spoon so it floats on top of the coffee. (Now you’ll have a glass of black coffee with a white layer of cream on top.)
- OPTIONAL: Garnish with a trimmed vanilla pod or stick of cinnamon, OR dust with a grating of fresh nutmeg.
- Serve the coffee on a plate with NO SPOON.
- Drink the coffee through the layer of cream.
How to make non-alcoholic Irish coffee
If you’re a teetotaler, you can make Irish coffee by using an alcohol-free Irish whiskey like this one.
Another alternative would be to use a whiskey flavored ground coffee, which you can also buy on Amazon.
We prefer to call this alcohol-free coffee drink an Irish virgin. 🤣
Want to make this later? Save it to Pinterest!
Is Jameson brand required?
Bottom line: It’s not an authentic Irish coffee if it doesn’t contain Irish whiskey.
Dan and I have never been particularly fond of whisky, scotch, or bourbon. But we’d never tried Jameson Irish whiskey before, so we thought we should at least give it a chance. Not gonna lie—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 other Irish distillers, but we aim to only mention companies that we have first-hand experience with.
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, has never been much of a coffee snob. He eagerly devoured every drop of his creation.
Alcoholic coffee cocktails
While everyone was making and enjoying their coffees, 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.
So just for fun, here are some more hot coffee-based cocktails that you can create. All these coffee drinks have their own different names, most of which depend on which liquor you’re using. For instance, if you add both Bailey’s Irish Cream and Irish whiskey to your coffee, you’ll be making 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 – Caribbean Coffee
- Tequila & Kahlua – Mexican Coffee
- Brandy & Tia Maria – Spanish Coffee
If you know of any other hot coffee cocktails, I’d love to hear about it.
ⓘ TIP: If using a sweet liqueur such as Tia Maria, you don’t need to add sugar. The liqueur has enough sugar to keep the whipped cream afloat.
Books about alcoholic hot drinks:
- Winter Cocktails: Mulled Ciders, Hot Toddies, Punches, Pitchers, and Cocktail Party Snacks
- Gourmet Liqueur Coffee
- 7 Lessons On Irish Whiskey: An Introduction to Drinking and Enjoying the Whiskeys of Ireland
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