Everyone is Irish when there’s an Irish Coffee to be had. Photo courtesy Sobieski Cinnamon Vodka.



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March 2007
Last Updated March 2012

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Cocktails

Irish Coffee

Page 1: The History Of Irish Coffee


This is Page 1 of a two-page article on Irish Coffee. Click on the black links below to visit Page 2.


The History Of Irish Coffee

You might think that Irish Coffee is a centuries-old drink, enjoyed by many generations of Irish folk around a hot fire at home or at the pub. But truth be told, it originated in the era around World War II during the dawn of transatlantic plane travel, from 1939 to 1945, when air travelers from America took an 18-hour seaplane (known as a “flying boat”) to Port of Foynes in County Limerick, Ireland. Passengers took a boat from the seaplane to the terminal—the seaplane base preceded the construction of Shannon Airport. By 1942, a restaurant had been established to welcome the travelers, which by then included such luminaries as Humphrey Bogart, Douglas Fairbanks, Edward G. Robinson, Ernest Hemingway and Eleanor Roosevelt.

In cold, damp weather, a hot cup of coffee or tea was appreciated upon arrival. One story has Brendan O’Regan, then the manager of catering, asking Joseph Sheridan, the head chef at Foynes, to develop something “stronger.” Another story is that on a cold night in 1942, a plane bound for the U.S. was turned back to Foynes due to bad weather—not an unusual occurrence—and Chef Joe Sheridan, who was serving coffee, came up with the idea. Whatever the story, the result is what is now known as Irish Coffee—purportedly because an American asked if the beverage was Brazilian coffee and was told in return, “This is Irish coffee.”

The Original Irish Coffee Recipe

By the time the Shannon Airport opened in 1945, Sheridan had perfected his recipe, and at the airport restaurant there, more and more travelers would enjoy it. One was the owner of the Buena Vista Café  in San Francisco, who brought the recipe home, and, in 1952, began serving the first Irish Coffees in the U.S. There is a commemorative plaque at Shannon Airport, and here is the original recipe:

  • Jameson Irish WhiskeyHeat a stemmed whiskey goblet.
  • Pour in one shot of Irish whiskey.
  • Add three sugar cubes.
  • Fill with strong black coffee to within one inch of top. Stir gently.
  • Top off to the brim with heavy cream*, slightly aerated by pouring it over the back of a spoon.
  • Important: Do not stir after adding cream, as the true flavor is obtained by drinking the coffee and whiskey through the cream. Pouring the cream over a spoon to make it float takes a bit of practice.

Photo: For your Irish Coffee, try some Jameson Irish Whiskey or some Tullamore Dew, both favorites at THE NIBBLE.

*Note: American supermarket whipping cream is ultrapasteurized to increase shelf life. This detracts from its ability to float on top of the mixture. If you can obtain untreated cream from a farmer’s market, it will produce a better Irish Coffee.

Slainte!  (That’s “cheers” in Gaelic.)


Continue To Page 2: Irish Coffee Recipes

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