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Irish coffee recipe – pure indulgence

This recipe for Irish coffee brings you a taste of Ireland, best savoured when sipped from Irish coffee glasses.

Irish coffee recipe

Irish coffee in traditional Irish coffee mug.
There's nothing really traditional about this Irish coffee recipe – not if you expect a good few generations to have elapsed before something earns the status of 'traditional'. Certainly our ancestors of the 18th and 19th century wouldn't recognise it.

But while Irish coffee (or any coffee for that matter) wouldn't have been on the horizon of the majority throughout those years, the drink has become one of the symbols of Ireland.

The drink wasn't created until 1942 when a young Tyrone chef called Joe Sheridan served it to air passengers one cold winter night at Limerick's Foynes airport.

Since then, it has taken on a personality synonymous with indulgence and luxury, and comes best dressed in its very own, distinctively designed, Irish coffee mug.

So what is the secret ingredient of this instantly recognisable black and white beauty?

You might be told that the cream sits dutifully on top of the hot drink only if you've used Irish whiskey (rather than Scotch or Bourbon). It's a good yarn, but it isn't true. The secret lies in the way you pour the cream.

Here's how to get perfect results


  • 1 large measure Irish whiskey
  • 2 tsp brown or demerara sugar
  • strong hot coffee, freshly percolated
  • Lightly whipped cream or cold double cream


Gently warm the Irish coffee mugs. Place a teaspoon in a mug to ensure the glass doesn't crack.

Half fill with very hot strong coffee.

Add the sugar and stir until it has dissolved. Pour in the whiskey. Remove the teaspoon.

Top up to within half an inch (1.5cm) of the top of the mug.

Hold a fresh teaspoon, curved side up, over the glass but very close to the coffee. Gently, and slowly, slide whipped cream off the teaspoon onto the top of the coffee so that it floats. If using liquid cream, pour the cream very slowly over the back of the spoon onto the top of the coffee. Don't rush. If you hurry this, the cream will sink. It'll still taste great but won't look as impressive!

Who cares if the Irish coffee recipe has been around for only sixty-odd years?

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Below: view of Old Bushmills Distillery in County Antrim

Bushmills Distillery, Northern Ireland.

Poster Logo for Foynes Festival 2013

The town of Foynes is an interesting place to visit. It's on the south side of the Shannon, just as the river makes its final westward turn for the Atlantic, and is home to the Flying Boat Museum which is housed in the old airport terminal.

The highlight of this museum is being able to walk around the Flying Boat, a replica Pan Am Clipper 314, to see how the other half travelled in the 1940s.

By the standards of today, it's sparse and roomy, but was the very height of first-class travel at the time, and only for the very well-heeled.

This is the type of passenger who first experienced Joe Sheridan's Irish coffee recipe, and very likely the reason the silky warm drink came to be regarded as an elegant speciality.

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By Claire Santry, Copyright© 2008-2018 Dedicated to helping YOU discover your Irish Heritage.
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