The Story Behind Irish Coffee

Who invented Irish coffee? What is the story behind Irish coffee? The recipe for making Irish coffee at home.
Author Headshot
Olivia Higgs
Nov 3
2 mins
Nov 3
2 mins

“Cream, rich as an Irish brogue, coffee, strong as a friendly hand, sugar, sweet as the tongue of a rogue, and Irish whiskey, smooth as the wit of the land.”

Irish coffee, whether you see it as a cocktail or coffee with a little kick, is typically enjoyed in the colder months or for a bit of a pick-me-up when you’ve had a pint too many at the local pub.

The story behind Irish Coffee

In the early 1940s, Foynes Airport in County Limerick, Ireland was a key stop-off destination between Europe and the United States. Being one of the main airports, it regularly received high profile passengers from Hollywood stars to important political figures. One of the restaurants offering up fine hospitality was headed up by Head Chef Joe Sheridan. On a typically cold and blustery night, Joe decided to create a drink that would warm his tired guests.

After tasting the drink, one of the American passengers asked “Are these Brazilian coffees?” to which Joe replied “No, they’re Irish coffees!”. Irish coffee went on to become a huge success and an airport specialty.

It wasn’t until the early 1950s when Irish Coffee really took off stateside. The travel writer Stanton Delaplane brought the recipe to the attention of Jack Koeppler, a bartender at the Buena Vista Hotel in San Francisco and persuaded him to recreate it. Koeppler couldn’t quite get it right - the cream kept sinking, the balance was off between the coffee and the sugar. So, Koeppler took a trip to Ireland to learn from Joe Sheridan himself. This delicious coffee swept across America and is now one of the most famous coffee cocktails in the world. But, the question is...

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How do you make Irish Coffee at home?

Irish Coffee Recipe

  • 2 tbsp double cream
  • 150ml/5 ounces strong, hot coffee
  • 1 shot of Irish whiskey
  • 1 tsp brown sugar

For garnishing: cinnamon stick or vanilla pod & nutmeg


  1. Into a warmed glass, add your brown sugar, freshly brewed coffee and Irish whiskey.
  2. Stir until the sugar has fully dissolved.
  3. Lightly whip your double cream so it’s slightly stiffened.
  4. Gently pour the cream into the coffee over the back of a spoon, so it floats on top (using a jug with a thin spout will help with the pouring).
  5. Now to garnish. Add a stick of cinnamon or a vanilla pod and grate a sprinkling of nutmeg on top.
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