How to Make Irish Coffee for St Patrick’s Day

Not everyone wants to down a pint of green beer just because its St Patrick’s Day. Some prefer the wonderful blend of coffee, cream and Irish whiskey. Here’s how to make Irish Coffee.

Here’s how to make the traditional Irish Coffee, the American version & a fast and easy at-home Irish Coffee recipe.

*The sugar in the recipe is absolutely essential as this is one of the reasons the cream floats on top. Don’t go low-cal with this!

The Traditional Irish Coffee

Boeing 314 Clipper flying boat

In 1943 Brendan O’Regan opened a restaurant and coffee shop in the Shannon Airport considered one of the best restaurants in Ireland at the time.

His chef was Joe Sheridan.

Brendan O’Regan

One wintry night a Boeing 314 Clipper flying boat enroute to New York had to return to the Foynes airport due to bad weather.

Sheridan added a little Irish whiskey to their coffee to help warm them up. One of the passengers who enjoyed it asked him if it was Brazilian coffee. “No – that’s Irish Coffee” he jokingly responded, and it’s been called that ever since.

For more of the story visit the Foynes Flying Boat Museum.

Original Joe Sheridan Irish Coffee Recipe

how to make irish coffee
one 1

Fill a large stemmed coffee cup or Irish cream glass with boiling water to preheat it. Let it stand for few seconds, then empty the glass.

number 2 two

Fill glass 3/4 full with coffee. Add 1 teaspoon of brown sugar and stir until dissolved.

number three 3

Add a jigger of whiskey. Stir.

number 4 four

Holding the spoon upside down over the glass, slowly pour lightly whipped cream over the back of the spoon so it floats on top of the coffee. Do not stir.

Irish Coffee Comes to America

american irish coffee cocktail in stemmed chalice
Stanton Delaplane

In 1952 Pulitzer Prize winner Stanton Delaplane, a travel writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, enjoyed a cup of Irish coffee at the airport and on his return home met with Jack Koeppler, then-owner of the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco, to recreate the drink.

the buena vista cafe via google maps

They faced two problems: getting the taste just right and making the cream float on the top. Delaplane travelled to the Shannon Airport again for more research and Koeppler contacted the San Francisco mayor, a dairy owner, for information.

The perfect tasting whiskey was selected (today they use Tullamore Dew.) They decided to use a cream aged for 48 hours and frothed to a precise consistency. They mastered the use of the spoon to make the cream float delicately on the top. Instead of brown sugar, they decided to use 2 sugar cubes.

They discovered that using the right chalice was key to the flavor as well. Using a stemmed 6 ounce heat resistance glass was key to the whiskey-coffee balance. Preheating the glass is important too.

Today they serve over 2,000 Irish cream coffees a day – close to double that on St Patricks Day. On 11/10/2008 The Buena Vista earned the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest Irish Coffee. See photos of the event at their website.

Buena Vista Irish Coffee Recipe

Buena Vista Irish Coffee

photo by Summer Park

Fill a large coffee cup or Irish cream glass with boiling water to preheat it. Let it stand for a few secons, then empty the glass.

numeral 2 two

Put 2 sugar cubes in glass. Fill glass 3/4 full with coffee and stir until dissolved.

numeral three 3

Add a jigger of whiskey.

number 4 four

Hold a spoon over the coffee and slowly pour slightly whipped cream (but still pourable) over it so it floats on the beverage.

If you’d like to add a chocolate touch, stir 2 tablespoons of milk chocolate chips with the sugar until dissolved. Sprinkle chocolate dust on top of whipped cream.

Irish Coffees at Buena Vista Cafe

Irish Coffee at Home

how to make irish coffee at home

It’s easy to make at home, now that you know the steps. Make black coffee (espresso is too dark), add Irish whiskey and a couple teaspoons of white or brown sugar and stir. Top with a spurt of canned whipped cream & enjoy! Just remember that its the sugar that makes the whipped cream float, so don’t leave it out.

This St Patricks Day, why not try to make the real deal at home? Practice the spoon/cream method a couple of times then wow the crowd with your barista/mixologist skills.


Want more? Here are our favorite St Patrick’s Day beverage recipes.

We share the secret passed down from generations of leprechauns so you can have green beer for your celebration. *wink*

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What now? More St Patrick’s Day ideas!

Want more? See our new St Patrick’s Day drinks.

liquid luck flask for st patricks day drinks

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