Irish coffee in a glass with a tumbler of whiskey and a pot of cream behind it
Irish Coffee even has it’s own special day—National Irish Coffee Day on January 25th. (Photo Credit: Tasty Ever After)

The Origins of the Irish Coffee

If you’ve ever traveled to Ireland, either the Republic or Northern Ireland, chances are that you came across the famous Irish Coffee, a boozy spin on everyone’s favourite cuppa’ joe. While the name should give its origins away, many people still think that this hot beverage came into being in San Francisco’s famous Buena Vista Cafe in the 1950s.

​In fact, Irish Coffee was first served at the Flying Boat Terminal at Foynes, Ireland in 1943 by a bartender called Joe Sheridan, who indeed later moved to San Francisco and worked at the Buena Vista Cafe. Here he met journalist Stanton Delaplane of the “San Francisco Chronicle” who helped spread the word about this new type of coffee. Ironically, Delaplane later admitted that he “can’t stand the stuff anymore.

[clickToTweet tweet=”The first Irish #Coffee served was in Ireland in 1943 by a bartender called Joe Sheridan.” quote=”‘In fact, Irish Coffee was first served at the Flying Boat Terminal at Foynes, Ireland in 1943 by a bartender called Joe Sheridan.'” theme=”style6″]
Foynes, the first Irish transatlantic airport for Pan Am, was where Ireland’s first passenger commercial flights from New York departed from in 1939. In 1943 a flight en route to New York turned back to Foynes due to bad weather and Sheridan was asked to make food and drinks for the freezing passengers. He poured Irish whiskey into the coffee and when the the guests asked him if it was Brazilian coffee he told them it was Irish Coffee. Hence, Ireland’s second-most favourite alcoholic export was born.

How to Make an Irish Coffee

​Sheridan’s original recipe calls for two sugar cubes, one and a half ounces of Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey, and coffee. First you need to fill an Irish coffee glass with very hot water to preheat, then empty. Pour the hot coffee into the hot glass until it is about three-quarters full, and then drop in the two sugar cubes. Stir until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved, and add the Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey for the proper taste and body. Top with a collar of lightly-whipped cream by pouring gently over a spoon.

Irish Coffee in a glass with brown sugar and a bottle of Irish whiskey behind it
Alex Levin once said: Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat. (Photo Credit: The Homemade Haus)

Where to Grab an Irish Coffee in Ireland

If you ever take a trip around Ireland, and you also happen to be fond of this boozy drink, be sure to visit one (or more!) of the following establishments. All of whom, according to their patrons, serve the best Irish Coffee in the country.

  • When in Dublin make sure to stay away from the usual tourist traps around Temple Bar area and instead head straight to The Stage Door. Their Irish Coffees are delicious and are served in massive mugs. They also boast a little street terrace which is the perfect spot to sit and watch the city go by.
  • O’Donoghue’s is another great Irish-Coffee-serving spot in Dublin, just off the busy shopping area of Grafton Street. If you’re not a fan of the crowds, avoid it on match days. They serve a fabulously traditional Irish Coffee with a good helping of fresh cream.
  • Don’t miss out on one of the best cups of Irish Coffee in the most traditional of surroundings of Dublin, at O’Sullivans. This Westmoreland Street pub is well worth the visit to warm up in while waiting for the bus.
  • If you fancy an Irish Coffee at one of the many Michelin star restaurants in Ireland, head to Chapter One in Dublin. They make the coffee at your table, heating up the sugar on a flame, throwing in the whiskey, and covering it all in coffee. Classy!
  • The Abbey Tavern in Howth: This picturesque outer suburb of Dublin located along the Dublin Bay is home to one of the best Irish Coffee finds in the country. Live music, a toasty fire, and a creamy Irish Coffee will make you forget all your troubles.
  • About 260 kilometres from Dublin is Nancy’s Bar in the picturesque Ardara in Donegal. A location that feels like you are having a drink at your mate’s. Make sure to try a slice of their Guinness chocolate cake with your Irish Coffee.
  • If you think an award winning whiskey bar would serve the perfect Irish coffee you would be absolutely right! At Garavan’s Bar in Galway, they use only the best ingredients to serve you their staple hot beverage.
  • If you decided to have a pit stop during your Ring of Kerry tour make sure to drop by The Red Fox Inn in Kerry. It’s quite touristy but their Irish Coffee is tough to beat. People have also been raving about their Bailey’s hot chocolate (yum!).
  • Another worthwhile stop on the Ring of Kerry tour is at Hannigan’s in Killarney, where they serve their Irish Coffee with a little coffee biscuit and a dollop of chocolate. A real treat!
  • Athlone is located in the heart of Ireland and one of its famous sights is Sean’s Bar, which holds the Guinness World Record for “oldest pub in Ireland”. No wonder their Irish Coffee is second to none.

If you would rather sample this drink in the comfort of your own home try Sheridan’s recipe or experiment with variations that are available online. Otherwise, here is a little teaser on how industrial amounts of Irish Coffees are being served at the Buena Vista Cafe:

​Where’s the best place you have enjoyed an Irish Coffee?

Writer’s Note: A big thank you to Tasty Ever After, The Homemade Haus and The Spicy Apron for the wonderful photos (and recipes).

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About Noémi Nagy

Noémi is a thirty-something Hungarian who moved to the Netherlands many moons ago but is still trying to get her head around the clogs, bikes and 'harings' . She considers herself adventurous when it comes to food and travel…although those who have seen her struggle with a haring/ stroopwafel/ stamppot might disagree. She loves trying out new restaurants and dishes and luckily the Hague has been a perfect playground for that.


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4 Responses to "Luck of the Irish…Irish Coffee That Is"

  1. Pingback: Café Irlandês (Licor) – Cafetaria

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