How to Make Irish Coffee

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My sister Peg shows us here how to make Irish Coffee. The coffee is strong and bracing, with the flavors of the coffee and whiskey offset by sugar cubes and a thick layer of heavy cream.

Glass mug of Irish coffee with cream on top
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(A Post Written by Peggy Abood)

Maureen and I have always felt a special kinship to St. Patrick’s Day which must have originated with birth when our 100% Lebanese parents gave each of their daughters Irish sounding names. And it didn’t end there: when they sent us each off to Saint Mary’s for college they were setting us down a very particular path resulting in many things, including this: a very high proportion of our lifelong friends would be the beautiful daughters of Ireland, who are fixtures of the school.

Which brings me to our drinks installment, Irish Coffee. This is a simple drink to put together with just a few basic ingredients, enjoyed not only on st. patrick’s day but on any chilly night that calls for something warm and cozy.

What Is Irish Coffee?

Like most drinks with some age on them, there’s controversy over the origins of Irish Coffee. Some insist it was created by some enterprising workers at the Shannon Airport trying to keep overseas passengers warm.

Others claim the drink was invented the long-closed Dolphin bar in Dublin. In any case, there’s no argument that the drink comes to the US through a columnist for the New York Herald Tribune. The year was 1948, the drink’s author, the wonderfully named Clementine Paddleford.

We’ve had the privilege of paging through vintage copies of her cookbooks – if you ever get your hands on one at a garage sale or on a vintage book site like alibris.com, don’t hesitate. Paddleford is known most especially for her no-nonsense style and celebration of the home cook.

Jameson Irish Whiskey bottle
Jameson Irish Whiskey with a jigger

Ingredients in Irish Coffee 

  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar or white sugar
  • Strong brewed coffee, ideally dark roast beans, hot
  • Irish whiskey (such as Old Bushmill’s or Jamesons)
  • Heavy whipping cream, cold
Two sugar cubes in glass mug for Irish Coffee

How to Make Original Irish Coffee

Step 1. Make a pot of strong coffee.

Step 2. Fill a heavy glass goblet with hot water to heat it up, then pour out the water.

Step 3. Add the sugar to the glass.

Step 4. Pour the strong, hot coffee over the sugar, to fill about 3/4 of the glass. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Step 5. Add 1 ½ oz Irish whiskey (Old Bushmill’s, Jamesons) with a bit of room left in the glass for the cream.

Step 6. Using a whisk, in a small bowl lightly whip heavy whipping cream until the cream is slightly thickened. Take care not to over whip (we’re not going for whipped cream). Turn a spoon upside down (bowl of the spoon facing down), and pour the thickened cream down the back of the spoon, layering onto the top of the coffee. Don’t stir the cream into the coffee, to keep the layers visible. Serve immediately.

Irish coffee with Jameson whiskey

Should I stir Irish Coffee?

One of the best parts about true Irish coffee is how great its layers look in a footed glass mug: the tall dark layer of coffee with the layer of thick cream on top. Do not stir to mix the two layers, just enjoy the flavors and mouthfeel of the cream and coffee with each sip.

Cream and a whisk in a glass bowl

FAQs

What is the difference between bailey’s coffee and irish coffee?

They are very similar, but Bailey’s Coffee includes Bailey’s Irish Cream in place of cream and sugar.

Which whiskey goes in irish coffee?

Ideally your whiskey is an Irish-made spirit. Favorites are Jameson, Old Bushmills, and Tullamore D.E.W.

How should you drink an irish coffee?

The distinguishing elements are that it is served hot in a footed glass mug. The coffee is spiked with whiskey and sweetened with sugar. There are two distinct layers: the coffee below and a whipped cream layer on top.

Is Irish coffee meant to be hot?

Yes, drink it hot traditionally. But if you prefer iced coffee, give that a whirl by pouring cooled coffee over ice and still topping with whipped cream.

What time of day do people drink irish coffee?

Despite its potency, enjoy it in the morning or afternoon traditionally. The drink makes a delicious warming treat in the evening. Try it with decaf coffee too!

Can irish coffee be made in advance

You could make the coffee together with the sugar, then reheat that when you’re ready to serve. Add the whiskey and top with the cream just before serving.

Can you make vegan irish coffee?

To make vegan Irish Coffee, make the whipped cream using coconut milk or aquafaba, the liquid from cooked chickpeas (see this recipe!).

More Favorite Cocktails from Peggy to Enjoy

Orange Blossom Gin Fizz

Amaro Cocktail

Mulberry Manhattan

Glass mug of Irish coffee with cream on top
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4.67 from 3 votes

How to Make Irish Coffee

Use strong coffee here and serve it very hot! This coffee is bracing, with the flavors of the coffee and whiskey offset by sugar cubes and a thick layer of heavy cream.
Prep: 10 minutes
Servings: 1

Ingredients 

  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar, granulated sugar, or 2 sugar cubes
  • 4 oz. strong brewed coffee, hot
  • 1.5 oz. Irish whiskey (such as Old Bushmill’s or Jamesons)
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream, cold
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Instructions 

  • Fill a glass goblet with hot water to heat it up, then dump out the water.
  • Add in the sugar.
  • Pour the strong, hot coffee over the sugar cubes, to fill about 3/4 of the glass. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Add 1 ½ oz Irish whiskey (Old Bushmill’s, Jamesons) with a bit of room left in the glass for the cream.
  • Using a whisk, lightly whip heavy whipping cream in a small bowl until the cream is slightly thickened. Take care not to over whip (we’re not going for whipped cream). Turn a spoon upside down (bowl of the spoon facing down), and pour the thickened cream down the back of the spoon, layering onto the top of the coffee. Don't stir the cream into the coffee, to keep the layers visible. Serve immediately.

Nutrition

Calories: 291kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 51mg | Sodium: 17mg | Potassium: 109mg | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 662IU | Vitamin C: 0.3mg | Calcium: 39mg | Iron: 0.1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Author: Peggy Abood
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 1
Calories: 291
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6 Comments

  1. Denise Saker says:

    Lassies! Your 100% Lebanese cousin loves Irish coffee and uses Tullamore D.E.W. I’ve not tried brown sugar or whipping cream but now I will. Slainte!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Well we will have to get after the Tullamore D.E.W. then!! xoxo

  2. Kristen says:

    Yum! Peg and Maureen I will definitely give this a try – not much else is going on this weekend in Chicago!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Right?!!

  3. Ann OB says:

    Love an Irish Coffee and love the recipe! Just for clarification Bushmill’s is in Northern Ireland and Jameson is in Republic of Ireland. There is a BIG cultural and religious difference. Also, we have discovered brown sugar! Amazing nutty flavor.
    Totally with Peggy on the soft whip cream!!!!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Ann O’Brien! Thank you for great detail-level on the Bushmill’s and Jameson whiskeys. Brown sugar, yes!! When I shot the photos for this recipe I debated using brown or white, since we use both at various times and I had both at the ready for the recipe and pics. Thank you for emphasizing the deliciousness that is brown sugar. I imagine you’ve enjoyed and make some of the finest Irish Coffee on the planet!