Joe Sheridan’s Original Irish Coffee

Joe Sheridan’s Original Irish Coffee Hot Drink Photo

Drink Type: Hot Drink



Fill an Irish coffee glass with very hot water to pre-heat, then empty. Pour hot coffee into hot glass until it is about ¾ full and drop in 2 cocktail sugar cubes; stir until sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Add full jigger of Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey for proper taste and body. Top with a collar of lightly whipped cream by pouring gently over a spoon. Enjoy it while it’s hot.

Before there were double frappacinos and caramel macchiato, there was Irish Coffee, perhaps the first popular flavored coffee drink. Each year since this creamy concoction was invented new consumers discover it as a delicious way to warm up a cold winter day. In fact the drink was invented back in the 1930’s to welcome-and to warm up the first transatlantic travelers.

It was the dawn of transatlantic plane travel, when a trip from America across the Atlantic was only possible on an 18-hour flight by flying boat." On landing, passengers were ferried from these early seaplanes, arriving chilled and damp at Foynes Airport in County Limerick, Ireland. By 1942, a restaurant had been established at the airport to welcome the travelers, which by then included such VIP’s as Humphrey Bogart, Eleanor Roosevelt, Edward G. Robinson, Ernest Hemmingway and Douglas Fairbanks.

Legend has it that one night in 1942, a plane bound for the U.S. was turned back to Foynes due to bad weather. According to historians at the Foynes Museum, this was not an unusual occurrence. But on this night, as Chef Joe Sheridan was serving coffee, he thought a little something extra was needed to warm the tired travelers. He sweetened the hot coffee with sugar, added a dram of Irish whiskey and floated a dollop of rich, delicious, lightly-whipped cream on top. Irish Coffee was born – and it created a sensation.

By the time the new Shannon Airport opened in 1945, Sheridan had perfected his recipe. He took it to the new restaurant there, where more and more travelers would sample its delights – among them, a gentleman from San Francisco. Owner of the city’s Buena Vista Café, he made it his mission to bring the distinctive drink across the pond. In 1952, Buena Vista began serving the first Irish Coffees in America.

Today’s visitors to the northern California city, caught on a cold day with the wind coming across the Bay, still appreciate an authentic Irish Coffee, made Joe Sheridan’s way. Experts maintain that it takes a deft hand to make a true Irish coffee.

According to Buena Vista manager Michael Carden, it’s vital to use the traditional method. "You have to use actual heavy cream that is whipped to the perfect consistency and poured in just the right way to get it to float on top. That way, you get the coolness of the cream and the hot of the coffee. That’s real Irish Coffee."

Professional bartenders take pride in their ability to create the drink: pouring the cream over a spoon to make it float takes a bit of practice. In addition to the Buena Vista Café, consumers who’d like to try authentic Irish Coffee need to search out just such a skilled bartender.

Included in the ranks is Emily Snyder, bartender at T.S. McHugh’s Irish Pub and Restaurant in Seattle, where customers often drink Irish Coffee after dinner. They’re pleased that it’s made in the traditional manner. "Everything we make here is done the traditional way, and our customers like that." In Dallas, the Trinity Hall Irish Pub and Restaurant sees a pick-up in orders when the weather gets colder. According to bartender Israel Delgado, "Our customers love watching us make it behind the bar. We actually whip the heavy cream and layer it on, so the customer gets to see everything. They really like that – and the fact that we use real Irish – Tullamore Dew – in our drinks."

At New York City’s Kinsale Tavern, Irish Coffee is a year-round drink, always made in the traditional manner. Long Island’s Irish Coffee Pub makes the drink in the time-honored way, but substitutes brown sugar for the sugar cubes. According to Eric Lawton, the Pub’s Event Planner, customers "… definitely appreciate that we make it the right way."

To all those who will enjoy an Irish Coffee this winter – especially the 2,000 per day at Buena Vista Café – an Irish Toast is always appropriate. Slainte! (That’s "cheers" in Gaelic.)