St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration of all things Irish: Soda bread, beer, whiskey, shamrocks and the color green, even, for those of us who live in the Chicago area, a green river. Here at Coffee by the Roast, St. Patrick’s Day is a great reason to celebrate another fine Irish tradition, Irish Coffee.
In the 1940’s, Foyne Airport near the city of Limerick was one of the region’s busiest airports. Unfortunately, weather was often a problem. The area’s weather has been described as “horrendous,” and many flights had to be delayed, stranding passengers at the airport. To meet the demands of the stranded passengers, the airport added a fine restaurant, run by a young chef named Joe Sheridan.
The story of Irish Coffee starts on a particularly nasty night, when a much delayed flight finally landed and the wet and exhausted passengers straggled into the restaurant. Joe took one look at them and decided they needed something to warm them up. He mixed strong, black coffee with some brown sugar, a dollop of Irish whiskey and topped each cup with heavy, barely whipped cream. The concoction was an instant success. According to the story, one passenger took a long sip, sighed happily and asked, ” "Hey Buddy, is this Brazilian coffee?"
"No," Joe replied, "that's Irish Coffee." The name and the recipe both stuck.
News spread about the Joe’s Irish coffee. A travel writer brought the recipe to San Francisco’s Buena Vista Hotel. Though the bartender at the hotel’s cafe tried to replicate the drink, he had trouble because the cool cream kept sinking to the bottom of the glass. He traveled to Ireland to learn the secret of making the drink from Joe himself, and in 1952, after Foyne Airport closed, the Buena Vista offered Joe. He came to San Francisco, and the Buena Vista became famous for his Irish Coffee. Here’s his recipe for Irish Coffee (from The Ireland Whiskey Trail):
Cream - Rich as an Irish Brogue
Coffee - Strong as a Friendly Hand
Sugar - Sweet as the tongue of a Rogue
Whiskey - Smooth as the Wit of the Land.
Pre-heat a clear stemmed glass with very hot water. Empty the water, and add 2 teaspoons of brown sugar. Now add some freshly brewed rich coffee and stir. As soon as the sugar is melted, add a generous measure of Irish Whiskey (about an ounce). Stir again, then wait for the brew to still. Now take a hot teaspoon and pour gently whipped fresh cream slowly over the back of the spoon. The cream should be "half whipped" i.e. not too stiff and not too liquid. A perfect Irish Coffee should look pretty much like that other famous Irish drink - Guinness!
Nowadays, there are many different recipes and variations of Irish Coffee. Those who don’t want the sugar can use sugar free syrup to sweeten the drink. Those who don’t what alcohol can use a whiskey flavored syrup, or Irish whiskey flavored coffee, like our Irish Cream. Those who don’t want the caffeine, can use a strong, rich decaf coffee. The important thing is to brew the coffee strong and blend it into a rich, sweet, warming cup. Sláinte!
How do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Whether it’s with a cup of Irish Coffee, a pint of green beer or a plate of corned beef and cabbage, please join the conversation and share it on the Facebook thread or in a comment on this blog. Or, if you'd like to share your thoughts with the wider world, leave us a coffee review on Google or on your favorite review site. Not only do we value your opinions, but reviews help more people find us. Help us connect coffee lovers to fresh, quality coffee!
~ Carrie, Paul and all of us at Coffee by the Roast