A Classic Irish Coffee Cocktail

Created by the kind people of Ireland to greet people sailing there from America; a Classic Irish Coffee Cocktail is as warming as they intended for those having made a long trip over cold water!

Classic Irish Coffee

St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and for many it’s a reason to drink not just beer, but green beer. I have it on good measure that most of the debauchery associated with this holiday is much more American tradition than Irish; big surprise!

So I’ll avoid the green beer and stick with my choice for celebration, a Classic Irish Coffee cocktail, a warming cocktail associated with Ireland that actually originated in the Emerald Isle.

As I was looking at my archives of food and drinks for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, I was forced to realize that the images on this page could use a redo. Poor me, having to make more of this amazing easy cocktail.

Irish coffees were originally concocted as a warm greeting for American travelers landing at Foynes, County Limerick after a long 18 hour flight from the US. After landing, passengers were shuttled by boat to the airport terminal which was an especially chilling leg of the trip in winter months.

In 1942 the restaurant at the terminal had a new chef, Joseph Sheridan, and he thought the newly arriving Americans would enjoy the combination of an American staple, coffee, with an Irish twist. The Irish were used to adding a bit of Irish whiskey to their tea; it wasn’t a huge stretch to think of adding some to coffee too.

When asked if the resulting beverage was Brazilian coffee, Joe answered, ‘No, it’s Irish Coffee!’ and a tradition was born. The original seaplane terminal is closed but there is a plaque at the Shannon airport that commemorates this event.

Classic Irish Coffee

Ten years later in 1952 the Irish coffee recipe came to the states via Jack Koeppler, the  owner of the Buena Vista Café restaurant In San Francisco, California. Koeppler and travel writer Stanton Delaplane decided they wanted to re-create that drink they had tried in Ireland and it seemed easy enough. Maybe leprechauns were involved but eventually they found the secret to success included the use of Irish Whiskey!

The cream is just slightly whipped and gently spooned on the surface so as not to sink to the bottom of the glass. Easy, luscious and warming, it’s a simple drink but one of my favorites and not surprising that it’s still being served at the Buena Vista Café to the tune of 2,000 Irish coffee beverages each day!

I tried to squelch my natural proclivity to revise a recipe when I made this cocktail but I failed. I won’t deny that the addition of a garnish of chocolate shavings was influenced more by improving the photo than thinking the drink really needed it but quite honestly, that hint of chocolate in the last sip?

I’m not complaining. Heavy on the whipped cream it was like a taste of coffee, chocolate, whiskey and whipped cream…not quite as decadent as the Irish Coffee Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks that I made last year but certainly a close second!

Won’t you join me in celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with a Classic Irish Coffee like they served at Foynes back in 1942? It’s just as splendid in 2021. Cheers!

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Classic Irish Coffee Cocktail Served in a Glass Mug
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5 from 3 votes

A Classic Irish Coffee Cocktail

Too good for just one holiday; this warm coffee with Irish Whiskey and whipped cream is perfect all winter long.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time15 mins
Servings: 2 Cocktails
Calories: 529kcal
Author: Creative Culinary


  • 3-4 ounces Irish whiskey to taste
  • 8 ounces fresh-brewed coffee
  • 2-4 brown sugar cubes to taste (or 2-4 tsp brown sugar)
  • ¼ cup whipping cream

To Garnish:

  • Chocolate Shavings optional
  • 2 Tbsp Whipped Cream


  • To warm coffee cups, fill with almost boiling hot water.
  • Whip the cream until thick, but not stiff; it should still be able to run off of a spoon.
  • Pour the warm water out of the coffee mugs. Fill 3/4 full with coffee, add the brown sugar and stir til dissolved.
  • Add the whiskey and stir to combine.
  • Hold a spoon upside down over the coffee and gently pour the cream over the back of the spoon, allowing it to gently pool on top of the coffee; filling to the top of the mug. Do not stir.
  • Garnish if desired with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Sip and enjoy!


Serving: 18 | Calories: 529kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 34mg | Sodium: 17mg | Sugar: 8g


Classic Irish Coffee Cocktail Served in a Glass Mug
Print Recipe
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A Classic Irish Coffee

The classic coffee cocktail from Ireland is a warm and warming
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time10 mins
Course: Irish Whiskey
Cuisine: Irish
Keyword: irish, coffee, st patrick's day
Servings: 1 serving
Calories: 348.65kcal


  • 1.5 ounces Irish whiskey to taste
  • 4 ounces fresh-brewed coffee
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 oz heavy cream


  • To warm coffee cups, fill with almost boiling hot water.
  • Whip the cream until thick, but not stiff; it should still be able to run off of a spoon.
  • Pour the warm water out of the coffee mugs. Fill 3/4 full with coffee, add the brown sugar and stir til dissolved.
  • Add the whiskey and stir to combine.
  • Hold a spoon upside down over the coffee and gently pour the cream over the back of the spoon, allowing it to gently pool on top of the coffee; filling to the top of the mug. Do not stir; sip and enjoy!


Serving: 18 | Calories: 348.65kcal | Carbohydrates: 13.39g | Protein: 1.31g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 13.06g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.78g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6.08g | Cholesterol: 77.68mg | Sodium: 27.18mg | Potassium: 114.48mg | Sugar: 11.74g | Vitamin A: 833.48IU | Vitamin C: 0.34mg | Calcium: 49.08mg | Iron: 0.13mg

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  2. Hello there, I am here via farmette’s Irish blog. I found you in the comments sections and popped over. I have recently moved to the U.S. from Ireland and am so glad to see that you sipped on an Irish coffee rather than a green beer for Paddy’s day. I love your retelling of the story behind it. I do like an Irish coffee but must say I prefer the bailey’s version.

    1. I would gladly have either version before I would drink a green beer Brenda! I recently was asked to come to a tasting at a local Irish pub and had the pleasure of having some Guinness paired with shepherd’s pie and it was probably the first time I actually enjoyed beer…but I would take coffee and whiskey in a heartbeat.

      I hope you are doing well here in the US; it must be quite a culture shock. What part of the country are you located in?

  3. I’d love to join you! A warm Irish coffee would be perfect for the weather we’re having! Way back when, a boss of mine used to take us to Buena Vista whenever we were in SF for the Gourmet Food Show. That was when (I thought) caffeine didn’t affect me at night… Now I have to make sure I only drink them before 12, or they’re decaf 🙂

    1. Guess who forgot about that whole decaf business? Yes, that would be me. I was awake at 2am wondering why I couldn’t go to sleep…oh yeah, that. Decaf it is..cause I’m doing another one this afternoon!

  4. This day makes me want to go back to Ireland, such a beautiful country! I love a good Irish beer, especially Guinness, but I love love Irish coffee too! This looks and sounds wonderful:-)
    Sláinte Terra

    1. It’s a place I long to get to but in the meantime this weekend is a small measure of being there. I actually love the food and I sure love this coffee! Come join me?

    1. I think I might be making one for myself in a bit…but I learned a hard lesson the other day. It’s called caffeine. After 2pm, I have got to do decaf!

  5. I believe we are on the same wave length lately my friend! I almost served our Irish coffees on green coasters as well. Too funny!

    During my digging around at the Buena Vista and online I never found the story about the American travelers. Interesting. Next time I hit the BV I am going to question them on this. 😉

    Happy St. Paddy’s Day. xo

    1. Well, today it seems that nothing else would really fit…unless a pint of Guinness was shared. I like Irish coffee better!

  6. Green beer reminds me of the movie ‘Flubber’ which reminds me of boogers… which doesn’t make me want to drink it, AT ALL! An Irish coffee, this just reminds me of being all warm and cozy, which is always something I want more of 🙂

    1. Me too Julia, the warm and cozy business. We are not yet in the sprung part of spring in the Rockies…a warm toddy is still appreciated here in the evening.

  7. Oooh I am guilty have indulging in an Irish coffee or two on occasion. I’ve never made one at home, but seeing that tomorrow is Saturday, St. Patty’s Day, AND you just posted this fine recipe, I may just have to try it 🙂

  8. Ah, I’ve many happy memories of tipping a “few” back at the Buena Vista! It was always our end stop after a night of …. “dinner” crawling!! This is still one of my favorite drinks on a cold night and lucky us – it’s supposed to be cold and rainy this weekend – WOO HOO! Definitely looking forward to making one of these this weekend and listening to the Molly Macguires!!!

    1. I only wished my memories had included what caffeine does to me. At 2am it hit me that the reason I wasn’t sleeping might have been that coffee! But it was so good and it deserves another chance…tonight it will be decaf!

    1. Smart woman! Though I had my eyes opened at a beer tasting recently when I had food paired with some really good beer, I still lean more towards the wine and cocktail arena…this is like dessert, cocktail and coffee…how much more perfect could it be right?

  9. I did not know the history behind the Irish Coffee so I really enjoyed reading this post and obviously many enjoy this classic beverage (2000 served in one day in one place…wow!) Once again Barb your photos are gorgeous! I love how you can see the whipped cream streaks drizzling into the coffee. I will be more than delighted to raise a cup of this across the miles with you. Happy St. Patrick’s Day 🙂

    1. I’m glad you noticed…I saw those striations and hoped I wasn’t alone…here’s to you Paula – cheers!

  10. I love the history of this coffee, never knew this 🙂 Gorgeous photo too as always. Gosh I could go for one right now! So hope that donations come in for St. Baldrick’s too..lovely of you to post that information up for your readers.

    1. I have a bit of Irish blood in my so I’ve known the story for some time…you know as if MY family were somehow responsible for bring Irish coffee to America. But in any event, glad someone did!

  11. Since becoming gluten free my days of tossing back a pint of Guinness for the holiday are over (though I was fortunate to have Guinness and Harp where they are made in Ireland on several occasions pre ‘GF’ substantiating my local Irish friends’ wager it is different when consumed at the source). Irish whiskey ‘neat’ and Irish coffee are my options now so this recipe is perfectly timed, thank you! I love knowing the roots of these drinks as I do with food. There are so many surprises when tracing drinks back in time. The origins of this make complete sense though I’d never have guessed it! Again love that you are sharing the information about St. Baldrick’s too. We have a little friend who was a benefactor of their work. Very touching. Happy St. Pat’s Barb!

    1. I recently enjoyed some Guinness and have newfound appreciation for it but the truth is…I’ll never be a big beer drinker. I like beer in bread for for a cocktail…give me wine or a beverage like this and I’m happier. St. Baldrick’s is a fabulous organization and I’m happy to be asked to be a part of this event each year. I had hoped to get down there today but timing was not good; it’s great fun to participate in the event and see the people lined up to shave their heads for kids.

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