Irish Coffee
IBA official cocktail
Traditional Irish coffee
TypeMixed drink
Base spirit
Standard drinkware
Irish coffee mug
IBA specified
PreparationPour the coffee into a preheated glass, add whiskey and sugar, and stir until dissolved. Pour cream slowly to form a distinct layer.
Irish Coffee recipe at International Bartenders Association

Irish coffee (Irish: caife Gaelach) is a caffeinated alcoholic drink consisting of Irish whiskey, hot coffee and sugar, which has been stirred and topped with cream (sometimes cream liqueur). The coffee is drunk through the cream.


Different variations of coffee cocktails pre-date the now-classic Irish coffee by at least 100 years.

From the mid-19th century, the Pharisäer and the Fiaker were served in Viennese coffee houses; both were coffee cocktails served in glass, topped with whipped cream. The former was also known in northern Germany and Denmark around that time. Around 1900, the coffee cocktail menu in the Viennese cafés also included Kaisermelange, Maria Theresia, Biedermeier-Kaffee and a handful of other variations on the theme.[citation needed]

In 19th-century France, a mixture of coffee and spirits was called a gloria.

Several places claim to have developed the modern recipe in the 1950s. One version is attributed to a Joe Sheridan, head chef at the restaurant and coffee shop in the Foynes Airbase[1][2] flying boat terminal (about 15 km from present-day Shannon Airport, County Clare).[3] In 1942 or 1943,[4][5] he added whiskey to the coffee of some disembarking passengers.[6][3][7]

Stanton Delaplane, a travel writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, maintains he brought Irish coffee to the United States after drinking it at Shannon Airport. His version is that he worked with the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco to start serving it on November 10, 1952.[8][9][10] Sheridan later emigrated to work at the Buena Vista Cafe.[11]


One method of adding the cream
Preparing Irish coffee by gently running the cream over a spoon into the glass. Dublin, 2022

Irish whiskey and at least one level teaspoon of sugar are poured over black coffee and stirred in until fully dissolved.[12] Thick cream is carefully poured over the back of a spoon initially held just above the surface of the coffee and gradually raised a little until the entire layer is floated.[13]


In 1988, the National Standards Authority of Ireland published Irish Standard I.S. 417: Irish Coffee. The standard has been cancelled at least as of 2020.[a]

Although whiskey, coffee and cream are the basic ingredients in all Irish coffee, there are variations in preparation: the choice of coffee and the methods used for brewing it differ significantly. The use of espresso machines or fully automatic coffee brewers is now typical: the coffee is either a caffè americano (espresso diluted with hot water) or some kind of filter coffee, often made using a coffee capsule.

The cream used in some bars to make what is sold as "Irish coffee" is sometimes sprayed from a can. Some bartenders gently shake fresh cream to achieve a smooth layer on top of the coffee.[citation needed]

In Spain, Irish coffee (café irlandés) is sometimes served with a bottom layer of whiskey, a separate coffee layer, and a layer of cream on top;[15] special devices are sold for making it.

Some bars in Southeast Asia serve a cocktail of iced coffee and whiskey, sometimes without cream, under the name "Irish coffee".

Many drinks of hot coffee with a distilled spirit, and cream floated on top—liqueur coffees—are given names derived from Irish coffee, although the names are not standardised. Irish cream coffee (also known as Baileys coffee) can be considered a variant of Irish coffee, but involves the use of Irish cream as a "pre-mixed" substitute for the whisky, cream and sugar. Jamaican coffee would be expected to be made with rum; Highland coffee, also called Gaelic coffee, with Scotch whisky; Russian coffee with vodka;[16] Mexican coffee with tequila, and so on, and so forth.

Irish coffee in film

In the 1968 film The Love Bug, Peter Thorndyke and Tennessee Steinmetz meet one night and drink Irish coffee while discussing Herbie and Jim Douglas. Thorndyke then pours some into Herbie's gas tank, causing the car to spin out and stall the next day.

See also


  1. ^ The standard can be obtained from Standards IE.[14]


  1. ^ Coyle, Cathal (1 December 2014). Little Book of Tyrone. The History Press. ISBN 9780750962841 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ "The War Room - Foynes Flying Boat Base". Archived from the original on 2017-11-15. Retrieved 2018-01-12.
  3. ^ a b Our Irish Coffee Heritage, Foynes Flying Boat Museum, archived from the original on 2011-01-22.
  4. ^ Joseph, Peter (12 January 2018). Boozy Brunch: The Quintessential Guide to Daytime Drinking. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781589796782 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "Irish Coffee Festival". 15 February 2003. Archived from the original on 15 February 2003. Retrieved 6 September 2020.
  6. ^ "Irish Coffee", European Cuisines.
  7. ^ "Foynes Irish Coffee Centre". Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum. Archived from the original on 2018-01-12. Retrieved 2018-01-12.
  8. ^ Nolte, Carl (November 22, 2006). "San Francisco: Coffee, cream, sugar and — Irish whiskey... but Buena Vista changed brands". San Francisco Chronicle. SF Gate. Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  9. ^ Nolte, Carl (November 9, 2008). "The man who brought Irish coffee to America". San Francisco Chronicle. SF Gate.
  10. ^ King, John (November 9, 2008). "SF bar celebrates 56 years of Irish coffee". San Francisco Chronicle. SF Gate.
  11. ^ "Foynes Flying Boat Museum". 16 May 2011. Archived from the original on 16 May 2011.
  12. ^ "Joe Sheridan's Original Irish Coffee Recipe". Retrieved 2007-07-09. The sugar is essential for floating liquid cream on top
  13. ^ "Traditional Irish Coffee Recipe". Good food Ireland. Archived from the original on 2009-11-25. Retrieved 2009-12-08.
  14. ^ Standards, IE.
  15. ^ "Recipes", Gastronomia vasca, archived from the original on 2003-10-04.
  16. ^ "Russian coffee". DeLonghi.