Happy National Irish Coffee Day! This bar holiday celebrates a classic cocktail that can be served in a traditional manner but definitely leaves itself open for experimentation. Irish coffee (or caife Gaelach in Irish) is simple: Irish whiskey, hot coffee and sugar stirred together and then topped with cream. Of course, nothing is as simple as it seems. Some people argue over whether white or brown sugar is supposed to be used, some recipes prohibit the use of whipped cream, and the type of coffee that should be used is often open for argument.
Even the story of how Irish coffee found itself in America is disputed.
Depending upon who you prefer to believe, Irish coffee was first recreated at the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco in 1952 (it opened in 1916) or at Tom Bergin’s Tavern in Los Angeles in the early ‘50s. The Buena Vista says that a San Francisco Chronicle travel writer named Stanton Delaplane brought the recipe to the United States after drinking one at Shannon Airport in Ireland. He mentioned the cocktail often in his column, helping spread the cocktail around the country. Supposedly, after the café served 30 million Irish coffees, the owners and Delaplane got tired of it. Tom Bergin’s, on the other hand, simply states they’re the home of the libation, going as far to put that claim a large sign in the ‘50s that read, “Home of Irish Coffee.”
Disputes can be an interesting way to open up engaging and spirited dialogue. In the case of cocktails, they’re also fun because it leads to experimentation. During this holiday consider making your own version of an Irish coffee. Play around with Irish whiskeys beyond standard Jameson. Find out whether you think your recipe tastes better with white, light brown or dark brown sugar. Use different types of coffee. In fact, play with both hot and cold coffees; cold-brewed coffee is very much in vogue at the moment. Nobody says you have to use Irish whiskey or call it Irish coffee, either. Use bourbon, American rye, Canadian, Japanese, Taiwanese, Indian, German, French or Australian whiskey and name your cocktail accordingly.
Two excellent starting points for playing with Irish coffee are below: one hot, one cold. Sláinte!
This recipe for an Irish Espresso-tini was created by Absolut and uses Absolut Vanilla, cream liquer and cold espresso for refreshing, icy take on Irish coffee.