Tips For The Perfect Irish Coffee

Female human hands holding Irish coffee

A few people have taken credit for inventing the Irish Coffee, but most say that it was Joe Sheridan, a chef at the restaurant in Ireland’s Foynes Flying Boat terminal (later replaced by Shannon International Airport) in the 1940s. As legend has it, Sheridan concocted the hot coffee/Irish whiskey cocktail to warm up passengers arriving from a rough airboat flight.

But while it may have been invented in Ireland, Irish Coffee was made famous in America, according to panelists during a session on Irish Whiskey cocktails at the Tales of the Cocktail convention in New Orleans. “Even bars that say they don’t serve cocktails will typically offer Bloody Marys and Irish Coffees,” said Rob Caldwell, Teeling Whiskey Global Ambassador.

A San Francisco journalist who sampled the Irish Coffee at the Foynes airport helped bring the drink to the city’s Buena Vista Café in 1952. The bar reportedly serves 2,000 Irish Coffees a day. Tom Bergin’s, a Los Angeles bar established in 1936, has long billed itself as “The House of Irish coffee.”


Then there’s The Dead Rabbit in New York, which reopened on July 19 after a kitchen fire a few weeks earlier. The five-year-old, world-famous cocktail bar prides itself on its Irish Coffee made with fresh, quality ingredients. The Dead Rabbit’s beverage director Jillian Vose shared some tips for making a killer Irish Coffee with the Tales audience.

Start with a smaller glass. “The biggest mistake people make is the wrong size glass,” Vose said. A 6-oz. stemmed glass is ideal, she said.

Use a lighter-style Irish whiskey. Vose recommended Clontarf, Jameson original or Teeling rum cask finish.

Back away from the burner. Coffee that’s been sitting on a burner all day is going to taste burnt and bitter. The Dead Rabbit uses a sous vide water bath to keep the coffee hot.

Use real cream. No, you shouldn’t use canned whipped cream. You want cream with a fat content of 35%-38%, Vose said.

Shake it, don’t beat it. You don’t want to overwhip the cream. A protein shaker with a spring works well for whipping up cream, Vose noted.

Don’t add sugar. Use a rich demerera syrup to sweeten the coffee—not the cream.

Here’s a recipe for the Dead Rabbit’s Irish coffee.

1 ¼ oz. Clontarf Irish whiskey
½ – ¾ oz. Rich demerara syrup
Hot Sumatra coffee
1 oz. Freshly whipped cold, unsweetened heavy cream

Add whiskey and syrup to 6-oz. stemmed glass. Fill glass with coffee to ¾ of the way. Top with whipped cream, garnish with fresh-grated nutmeg.