YEARS ago, rather than a dessert I liked to finish dining out with a delicious Irish Coffee.

One doesn't see this classic much these days, but like so many memorable foods and drinks of yesteryear, Irish Coffee is making a comeback.

But this time, it's not alone as mixologists - those skilled at mixing cocktails - are coming up with many more modern options than just hot coffee, booze and cream.

But let's not dismiss a good old fashioned Irish Coffee. It might be a bit old hat to some, but when it's prepared properly and with the finest ingredients it really is in a class of its own.

The drink was created in the winter of 1945 by Joe Sheridan, chef at Foynes Port in Limerick, Ireland.

After a group of American passengers disembarked from a Pan Am flying boat on a miserable winter evening in 1943, Sheridan added Irish whiskey to the coffee to warm the passengers. One passenger asked if they were being served Brazilian coffee, Sheridan told them it was "Irish coffee."

The drink became an airport specialty. It came to the US in 1952. After drinking it at Ireland's Shannon Airport, Stanton Delaplane, a travel writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, persuaded his local bar, the Buena Vista Café, to recreate it for him.

Delaplane popularized the drink by mentioning it frequently in his travel column, which was widely read throughout the US. Today the Buena Vista Café claims to serve as many as 2,000 Irish Coffees on busy days.

The ingredients are simple: hot coffee, Irish whiskey (yes, you can also use Scotch whisky), and sugar, stirred, and topped with thick cream. The coffee is drunk through the cream. Aficionados say brown sugar has to be used.

The trickiest part of making an Irish Coffee is getting the cream to float on top. The secret is to ensure the coffee is very hot and the cream very cold – and, most importantly, it isn't whipped too thickly, which is easy to do with such a small amount.

The perfect Irish Coffee


(makes 1)

50ml cold double or whipping cream

2 Tbsp muscovado

50ml whiskey, preferably Irish

150ml-200ml freshly brewed coffee

nutmeg to top


Fill a heatproof glass with hot water and leave to stand. Whip the cream until the bubbles disappear and it has just started to thicken and form ribbons underneath the whisk; it is better to err on the side of too thin at this point. Put back in the ref.

Dissolve the sugar in two tablespoons of hot water in a small pan and bring to the boil. It should go syrupy almost immediately.

Take the sugar off the heat and stir in the whiskey. Empty the glass and pour the sweetened whiskey into the bottom, then stir in the coffee. Take the cream out of the fridge, whisk once, then pour it on over the back of a spoon (this helps to stop it sinking). Grate a little nutmeg over the top and serve immediately.

The whipped cream makes the perfect cool layer to sip the hot coffee-whiskey concoction through, without mixing.