by Lesley Jacobs Solmonson, Drinks Editor
As with so many boozy tales, this story begins in Ireland, a country that dearly loves its whiskey. It begins with a group of travelers, who got stranded on a stormy night at Foynes airbase. To cheer the landlocked souls, Joe Sheridan, who ran a restaurant at the base, concocted what is now known as the Irish Coffee.
At San Francisco’s Buena Vista Bar, which offers their version of Sheridan's recipe, serves upwards of 2,000 Irish Coffees a day – and that’s not counting March 17th. Today, versions of the Irish Coffee, both the original recipe and modern interpretations, dot the landscape, particularly on St. Patrick’s Day.
The original recipe is simplicity itself, but, as they say, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. According to Jack McGarry, co-owner and bartender extraordinaire at the Dead Rabbit in New York, “The traditional Irish Coffee masters the art of balancing texture, flavor, and temperature; [it is] an all encompassing drink that is unique in its own right.” It's also a drink whose simple base allows for a myriad of variations. And, as with any variation, even a small alteration, as long as it is well-considered, can take a cocktail to an elegant and surprising new level.
Today's bartenders often tinker with classics, sometimes with wonderful results. Both McGarry and Joaquin Simo of Pouring Ribbons have an Irish Coffee in their arsenal. As Simo says, "The timeless simplicity of the classic Irish Coffee makes way for an abundance of creative adaptations."
When it comes to your choice of whiskey, that decision could start many a bar fight. Dennis Heffernan, a 40-year bartender at the now closed Cashel Palace Hotel, insisted that nothing but Powers Whiskey would do. McGarry and Simo have their own favorites. IF you aren't sure which whiskey is your favorite in the drink, you are sure to enjoy the experimentation process.
And, whether you sip the original or one of these modern classics, you will quickly understand why so many boozy tales begin in Ireland. If the luck of the Irish is with you, perhaps you will create one of your own.
Joe Sheridan's Original Irish Coffee, including poetic descriptors
- Cream -- Rich as an IRishg Brogue
- Coffee - strong as a Friendly HAnd
- Sugar - Sweet as the Tongue of a Rogue
- Whiskey - Smooth as the Wit of the Land
1. Pre-heat a clear stemmed glass with very hot water.
2. Empty the water, and add 2 teaspoons of brown sugar.
3. Add some freshly brewed rich coffee and stir.
4. As soon as the sugar is melted, add a generous measure of Irish Whiskey (approx. 2 oz.)
5. Stir again, then wait for the brew to still.
6. Now take a hot teaspoon and pour gently whipped fresh cream slowly over the back of the spoon. The cream should be “half whipped” i.e. not too stiff and not too liquid.
Cold Irish Coffee
By Brooke Baker & Jack McGarry of The Dead Rabbit
McGarry says: "This combination makes it a guaranteed favorite guests return to time and time again. Creating a cold version that’s equally as satisfying was no easy task and required an added richness to our recipe. We use a touch of coffee liqueur in the Cold Irish Coffee which further reveals the hints of toffee and vanilla in the Clontarf."
- 1/2 oz Galliani Ristretto
- 11/2 oz Chilled Irish Coffee Mix (see recipe below)
- 1 1/2 oz Clontarf Whiskey
1.Add Irish whiskey and Cold Coffee Mix to a bottle and refrigerate.
2.Add cold Whiskey & Coffee Mix into a pre-chilled Irish Coffee glass
and finish with a thumbs worth of pre-whipped heavy cream Heavy Cream.
At The Dead Rabbit they use protein shakers to whip our cream. Add cream
and shake in the protein shaker until the cream emulsifies. Alternatively,
whip with a whisk in a silver bowl until it takes on a thicker texture.
The OTT (over the top) Irish Coffee
Recipe by Joaquín Simó
Simo says: "This version employs the distinctive flavor of cardamom whose spiced,
citrusy notes complement the subtle spice of the Knappogue 12 year, elevating the
comforting coffee aromas, while the touch of saline enhances the smooth texture
the drink is admired for."
- 1 1/2 oz Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey
- 1/4 oz rich (2:1) Demerara syrup
- 5 oz hot Coffee
- 5 drops Saline Solution (or a tiny pinch kosher salt)
- 3 cardamom pods
For the cream:
- 5-6 oz Heavy cream
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- Zest from 1 orange
- 2 Dashes Regan's No 6 Orange bitters
Garnish: Lightly toasted Little Boo Boo Bakery Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey Marshmallow
1. Muddle the cardamom pods in the bottom of a pre-heated Irish coffee glass.
2. Add whiskey, Demerara syrup, hot coffee and saline solution and stir.
3. Whip the cream with the orange zest, white sugar and Regan's No 6 Orange
bitters until thickened, but still pourable.
4. Float cream over the top of the drink by pouring gently over the back of a spoon.