National Irish Coffee Day is January 25. Although we celebrate this hot beverage during January when temperatures plummet, the Irish Coffee is a versatile cocktail that stands out in any season.
What is Irish Coffee? It’s a simple, delicious hot beverage containing coffee, Irish whiskey, and brown sugar (or brown sugar simple syrup), and topped with whipped cream.
Like all cocktail histories, the origin of Irish Coffee should be taken with a grain of cocktail salt. But this is our story, and we’re sticking to it.
In the 1940s, a group of American tourists visited the Shannon Airport bar in County Foynes, Ireland. Having just completed the final leg of their journey in a Pan Am flying boat, the weary travelers were cold and jet lagged—they ordered a hot cup of coffee to warm their bones and revive their spirits. Bartender Joe Sheridan added a glug of Irish whiskey to each cup, and the combination was an instant hit.
Fast forward to November 10, 1952. Stanton Delaplane, a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, visits the Shannon Airport, and enjoys an Irish Coffee before heading back to the States. Upon his return in San Francisco, he tells his friend—Jack Koeppler, co-owner of the Buena Vista Cafe—about his discovery. They decide to try and replicate the recipe, but encounter a critical problem: they can’t get their cream to float atop the coffee like the original.
As fate would have it, the duo had a dairy connection. George Christopher—San Francisco’s mayor—also owned a dairy. He suggested that the cream needed to thicken, and advised they age the cream for 48 hours to firm up the topping, and froth it before serving. It worked, and the Buena Vista Cafe’s Irish Coffee was born.
Ever since, Irish Coffee enthusiasts have flocked to the famous locale. The Buena Vista Cafe has been featured on The Food Network, lauded by USA Today, and has been visited by famous chefs from around the world.
Luckily, you don’t need to travel to Ireland (or San Francisco) to enjoy your own hot, delicious Irish Coffee. You can make the original at home with just a few simple ingredients, or you can kick things up a notch and try a twist on the classic—like this iced version from New York’s world-renowned bar, The Dead Rabbit.
Whether you need some coffee with a kick to get you out of bed in time for brunch… or are looking for the perfect cold-weather nightcap, break out the whiskey and celebrate National Irish Coffee Day this January 25!
National Irish Coffee Day is typically celebrated