Irish Coffee – A Lesson in Comfort

December 18th, 2015

They say the Irish Coffee has the four essential food groups all in a single glass: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat.  It is a right of winter to cozy up with one in a quiet pub with friends.  But, do you know where it came from?

The Irish coffee – one of America’s loveliest expatriate stories. It allows us to escape from the cold and find that warm fuzzy feeling …inside and out. The history and recipe is easily found with a quick search on wiki …but, IMHO, this info under-delivers.

I was first told the story of the Irish coffee by one of our long time managers, an Irishman from Limerick, and it always stuck with me. Could be the accent, his flare for storytelling, or the fact that he actually worked in Shannon airport in another life, but this story and the history of the Irish coffee is one of my favorite lessons in the art of preparing this beverage, but also in Irish hospitality.

The story dates back to the 1940s, when an Irishman named Joe Sheridan, head chef of Foyne’s port (which later became Shannon airport) added some whiskey to the coffee of travel-weary American passengers who had just disembarked from a long trans-Atlantic Pan Am flight.  Afterwards, one of the eager and grateful Americans asked if they had been served a Brazilian coffee. Sheridan responded with, “No. That was Irish Coffee”. But the story doesn’t stop there…

Shannon airport sold a lot of Irish coffees over the next 10 years and one American, a travel writer for the San Francisco Chronicle named Stanton Delaplane, brought the recipe back to his cafe in San Francisco and worked with the bar owners there to re-create it. After a lot of trial and error (those sessions are always fun) the guys found the winning formula for all of America. The rest is history. The recipe for Caife Gaelach, that’s the Irish translation for Irish coffee, is made by pouring hot coffee into a warmed glass mug, adding Irish whiskey (we like Tullamore Dew in ours), and brown sugar and topping it off with thick, fresh cream.


By some accounts, the Irish coffee was invented 100 years before all this, but on that fateful night in 1942, Joe Sheridan treated Americans to the best of what Ireland had to offer on a cold winter’s night– its hospitality and whiskey!

“Stay away from politics” is a good rule to follow at the bar if you are avoiding the aforementioned bombast. For those who are seeking a little respite from the cold and chaos, there’s nothing more rejuvenating than sipping a warm winter cocktail. It’s the perfect nightcap on the best of nights and a pick me up and get me started on the worst. It’s “cozy in a cup” and, not surprisingly, it has always been a featured favorite on our menu. You’ll find it listed on both our food AND beverage menu. Let’s Make America Great Again? Sure. Start by making me an Irish coffee. Now there’s a good story…..