Food & Cooking Blog

Sláinte! Make Classic Irish Coffee (With 2 Tasty Variations)

Irish coffee is not coffee from Ireland but a coffee drink that was invented there nearly 80 years ago to warm up cold travelers on brisk Irish nights. It is often served around St. Patrick’s Day, but the drink is easy to make yourself at home and is sure to ward off a chill every time. 

Homemade Irish Coffee

Irish coffee history

Irish coffee is said to have been invented in 1938 by an Irish chef named Joe Sheridan, who decided that coffee is better when it had a little something extra added to take off the chill. That something extra was Irish whiskey. The drink was brought to the U.S. by a San Francisco travel writer Stanton Delaplane, who raved about the drink so much that more local establishments decided to try and recreate it. The Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco is known for their Irish coffee, as is Tom Bergin’s in Los Angeles. 

Ingredients for Classic Irish Coffee Recipe

About classic Irish coffee

Irish coffee is made with just a few ingredients: coffee, sugar, Irish whiskey and whipped cream. Sugar, coffee and whiskey are combined, then a “collar” of whipped cream is carefully poured on top before serving.

The whipped cream is really the key to a good Irish coffee. The cream needs to float on top of the drink in a distinct layer. To achieve this look, whip heavy cream it until it is slightly thickened. It should not reach “soft peaks” and should still be pour-able, but it should be thicker than un-whipped cream. 

Whipped Cream for Irish Coffee

Make sure that your coffee is very hot because when you assemble your drink, that thick rim of cream will cool it down considerably. I like a medium-roast coffee when I am making Irish coffees, but most coffees work well, so feel free to try it with any roast you like.

Classic Irish coffee recipe

Serves one.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 ounces (one shot) Irish whiskey
  • 6 ounces hot coffee

Step 1:

In a medium bowl, whisk cream vigorously until it begins to thicken. Cream should be thick, but still pourable. Set aside. 

Step 2:

In an Irish coffee glass, combine sugar, whiskey and hot coffee. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Top with a 3/4″ collar of thickened whipped cream. Serve immediately.

How to make Irish coffee two ways

While I enjoy the classic recipe, the ingredients also give you a template for nearly unlimited variations. I like to serve Irish coffee as a dessert drink. The original recipe, however, is not particularly sweet, so some of my favorite variations add a little bit of extra sweetness that transform the basic recipe into something a bit more decadent. 

Decadent Chocolate Irish Coffee

The first variation is for a chocolate Irish coffee that is a more adult version of a mocha with whipped cream. It adds chocolate sauce both to the coffee and the whipped cream. 

Chocolate Irish coffee

Serves one.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 ounces chocolate syrup, divided
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 ounches Irish whiskey
  • 6 ounces hot coffee

Step 1:

In a medium bowl, whisk cream vigorously until it begins to thicken. Cream should be thick, but still pourable. Whisk in 1/2 ounce chocolate syrup until completely combined. Set aside. 

Step 2:

In an Irish coffee glass, combine remaining chocolate syrup, sugar, whiskey and hot coffee. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Top with a 3/4″ collar of chocolate whipped cream.

Maple Irish Coffee

The second variation is a good choice for brunch or dessert. It is sweetened with maple syrup, which goes very nicely with the whiskey, and there is a touch of maple in the whipped cream collar, too. 

Maple Irish coffee

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) heavy cream
  • 1ounces maple syrup, divided
  • 1 1/2 ounces Irish whisky
  • ounces hot coffee

Step 1:

In a medium bowl, whisk cream vigorously until it begins to thicken. Cream should be thick, but still pourable. Whisk in 1/4 ounce of the maple syrup. Set aside. 

Step 2:

Maple Syrup in Irish Coffee

In an Irish coffee glass, combine remaining maple syrup, whiskey and hot coffee. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Top with a 3/4″ collar of thickened whipped cream. Serve immediately.

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