Irish Coffee Recipe
Dec 14, 2022, Updated Nov 20, 2023
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I learned how to make authentic Irish coffee when I visited the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco. The Buena Vista cafe is famous for introducing Irish coffee to America in 1952. Then-owner, Jack Koeppler, first tried an Irish coffee at the Shannon Airport in Ireland. He was determined to recreate the cocktail.
With the help of international travel writer, Stanton Delaplane, they were able to reproduce the perfect rendition of the cocktail back in the States. If you’ve never been to the Buena Vista Cafe, it’s an awesome bustling spot that serves Irish coffees by the dozen. It’s a spectacle to watch the bartenders turn out 10 Irish coffees in a matter of minutes.
This Irish coffee recipe is made almost exactly how the famous drink was made over 50 years ago. It’s a delicious and boozy cocktail that is a real experience.
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Ingredients in Irish Coffee
Irish coffee is made with coffee, Irish whiskey (Tullamore D.E.W. or Jameson’s), 2 sugar cubes, and frothy whipped cream. The real magic in this cocktail is the frothy floating creamy collar. It adds texture and creaminess and really balances the coffee and whiskey.
How to Make Buena Vista’s Famous Irish Coffee
- Brew your favorite medium roast coffee, nothing with artificial flavors like hazelnut or French vanilla.
- Preheat a serving glass with very hot water. This keeps the drink hotter for longer.
- Empty the water and fill the glass with a 1/2 cup of coffee, about 4 ounces.
- Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and stir.
- Top with 1.5 ounces of Irish whiskey and stir.
- Top off with a 1/2 inch collar of loosely whipped cream by pouring the cream over the back of a spoon.
This cocktail is traditionally served in a 6-ounce coffee glass. I purchased near replicas online.
Frothy Whipped Cream
The whipped cream served at the Buena Vista Cafe is very particular. It’s frothy and underwhipped cream so that’s easily pourable yet floats on the surface. As the cocktail is sipped, the cream will start to settle and mix into the drink.
My personal method for creating the whipped cream is to shake whipping cream in a mason jar until the desired frothy texture is reached. It usually only takes a minute of constant shaking. If you go too far and the cream gets too thick, you can stir in extra cream to help thin it out.
You don’t want stiff peaks—the cream needs to resemble a dense and frothy, yet runny foam. If you shake the cream, you should still be able to hear it slosh around.
I would not recommend substituting any whipped cream alternatives or canned whipped cream-it’s simply not the same experience.
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Irish Coffee Recipe
- 1/2 cup 4 ounces medium roast hot coffee
- 1.5 ounces Irish whiskey, Tullamore D.E.W. or Jameson's
- 2 teaspoons sugar, 2 sugar cubes
- 2 ounces lightly whipped cream
- 1 cup whipping cream, serves 4-6 with 1-2 ounces per coffee
For the whipped cream
- Add whipping cream to a lidded mason jar or sealed container. Shake vigorously for 45-60 seconds and then check the consistency. You want the cream to be thickened and frothy but easily pourable. If it gets too thick, thin it out with a little extra cream and stir to mix.
- Preheat each serving glass with very hot water for a few minutes. This keeps the drink hotter for longer.
- Empty the water and add coffee and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
- Add whiskey and stir again to mix.
- Float whipped cream by gently pouring a 1/2 inch collar of cream over a spoon at the coffee's surface (about 1-2 ounces). Serve immediately.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.