How To Make The Ultimate Irish Coffee

Just when you thought coffee couldn't get any better...

The tale of the not-so-humble Irish coffee starts way back in 1943 - in an airport, of all places. No, we definitely wouldn't have guessed that either. 

Enter Joe Sheridan, chef at Foynes Port airbase near Limerick. This airbase was usually just a stopover for longer flights to refuel, but one freezing winter's night a flight had to turn back and land at Foynes, midway through its journey. To cheer up the delayed, cold and weary passengers, Joe decided to whip up something special for them to drink. 

Sure, when we're stuck in an airport, we agree there's nothing better than loading up on coffee and/or booze to get you through. Joe took it to another level. We all know Americans like a chatter, but the story goes that silence descended as everyone took that first sip on his epic concoction. It was an instant success. Boozy, caffeinated cocktail history was made.

A true legend. 

Fast forward to 1952, and travel writer Stanton Delaplane introduced this awesome drink to The States. He brought it to the attention of Jack Koeppler, a bartender at the Buena Vista Hotel in San Francisco, and persuaded him to recreate it.

But not just anyone can make a killer Irish Coffee. There's a science to that sh*t, and the pair just didn't know what it was. With sinking cream and the wrong balance, they decided to head back to the source and learn from the master.

This is the recipe offered by Joe Sheridan, to make a true Irish Coffee:

Cream - Rich as an Irish Brogue
Coffee - Strong as a Friendly Hand
Sugar - Sweet as the tongue of a Rogue
Whiskey - Smooth as the Wit of the Land

Joe Sheridan serving Marilyn Monroe one of his infamous Irish Coffees via Shannon Airport Authority

Don't get us wrong, we love a poem as much as the next person. But when it comes to making cocktails, there's a lot to be said for more technical instruction - so we asked Mia Johansson from London's legendary Bar Swift for an updated low-down on how to make the ultimate Irish Coffee:

"For the perfect Irish coffee cream float make sure to use chilled double cream or oat cream - Elmlea won't whisk and thicken, therefore it won't sit nicely on top for that perfect sip. We also recommend using a filter coffee as it blends nicely with the whiskey and will keep consistent throughout. Don't be shy with your sweetener, it is a treat after all. Jameson whiskey is the classic and works wonders, for further depth go for the Jameson Caskmates which is aged in stout casks."

Time to channel Swift and make your own bad-ass Irish Coffee, baby!

You will need:

  • 75ml dark roast coffee
  • 25ml demerara syrup
  • 40ml Jameson Caskmates Stout
  • Grated nutmeg (optional, but definitely f*cking worth it!)


  • Pour the sugar, then coffee into a warm mug or other heat-proof glass.
  • Stir until dissolved.
  • Add the Irish whiskey and stir again.
  • Float the cream on top by gently pouring it over the back of a spoon - this bit is crucial for stopping it sinking to the bottom and robbing you of that thick, silky head. Do not stir again.
  • Drink the coffee through the cream and get a 'stashe sexier than Michael Fassbender.


Can't be arsed to make your own?

Check out the Irish Coffees at these next-level bars...

Bar Swift, London

Officially 2020's Best Bar of the Year, this Central London spot mixes up an Irish Coffee topped with hand-whipped cream, which makes it rich as f*ck. It warms you all the way down to your toes, so if you're about to have a wild night out in Soho, it's definitely the fuel you need to get started. 

12 Old Compton St, Soho, London W1D 4TQ

Dead Rabbit, NYC

The Irish Coffees served at this epic New York bar are widely considered to be the best in the world. Could be the countless hours they spent perfecting this serve, or the coffee made from beans grown in Sumatra as the base. Or maybe it's the perfect ratio of Bushmill's Irish Whiskey, coffee and sweetness. Whatever the secret, this is what we order whenever we touch down in the Big Apple. 

30 Water St, New York, NY 10004, United States

Buena Vista Cafe, San Francisco 

As you now know, this isn't the OFFICIAL home of the OG Irish Coffee, but it is the place where the first American-born Irish Coffee was made, so if you're a purist, you'll need to get yourself to the Bay Area. They serve up over 2,000 Irish Coffees a day, using cream aged for 48 hours and frothed to a precise consistency, which is what makes it float as delicately as a swan on the surface of this legendary serve.

2765 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109, United States

Homeboy, London

If you can't get yourself to the Emerald Isle to drink this caffeinated treat, no drama. You only have to head to Islington to visit the best (and most authentic) Irish bar in London. Co-Owners Aaron Wall and Ciarán Smith are the ultimate dealers of Irish hospitality, charm and good craic. Their Irish Coffee is made with Jameson Black Barrel Whiskey, coffee, cream, demerara syrup, and a wall of Homeboy Irish Coffee bitters. Unsurprisingly, it's bang on. 

108 Essex Rd, Islington, London N1 8LX

Science & Industry, Manchester

As the American pioneers of this boozy concoction discovered, there is a science to making the perfect Irish Coffee. But when it comes to making a VEGAN Irish Coffee? Well that requires a stroke of genius, which this Manchester bar has in abundance. They've made a short, rich and velvety Irish Coffee (AKA the Black Emerald) which is completely vegan, using espresso, Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition, stout syrup and a creamy vanilla and tonka bean foam. Irish Coffee for errry'one!

49, 51 Thomas St, Manchester M4 1NA

Chapter One, Dublin

Photo credit: Emily Westbrooks

Fancy trying an Irish Coffee with a Michelin star? That was rhetorical. Of course you do. This restaurant in Dublin makes 'em extra special by whipping them up, right in front of you.  After wheeling the ingredients to your table, they heat up the sugar on a flame, throw in the whiskey and cover it all in coffee. It tastes insane but it's the smell that'll have you doing a jig in your seat. 

18-19 Parnell Square N, Rotunda, Dublin 1, D01 T3V8, Ireland