The History of The Irish Coffee

March 06, 2023

The History of The Irish Coffee

Irish coffee is a classic cocktail that combines whiskey, coffee, sugar, and cream to create a delicious and warming drink. It's nearly universally recognized and can be ordered almost anywhere—though not always with it's intended presentation. Which begs, the question, where did the Irish coffee come from? 

Or...if you want to learn how to make an Irish Coffee for your Firelight Flask click here.

The History Of The Irish Coffee Cocktail

The story goes that in 1942, a group of passengers were stranded at Foynes Airport in Ireland due to bad weather. Foynes had become one of the largest civilian airports and a hub for transatlantic flights with massive seaplanes. Joe Sheridan, a chef and bartender at the airport's restaurant, decided to whip up a special drink to warm up the chilly passengers. He brewed up some hot coffee and added a shot of Irish whiskey to each cup. To sweeten the drink, he stirred in some brown sugar, and then topped it off with a generous dollop of cream as a float.

The passengers were delighted with the drink and asked Sheridan if it was Brazilian coffee. Sheridan replied, "No, it's Irish coffee." And so, the drink was born.

A traditional Irish Coffee

Because Foynes Airport was a hub for dignitaries and hollywood stars on trans-atlantic flights, word spread and the Irish coffee quickly gained popularity throughout Ireland eventually making its way to the United States.

The Irish coffee got it's start stateside in the 1950s when Jack Koeppler, then owner of the Buena Vista Cafe, and San Francisco travel writer Stanton Delaplane sat down to try and recreate a drink Delaplane had often written about as part of his travels. After many failures, and even perhaps enlisting the direct help of Joe Sheridan (this is debated), Jack arrived on a recipe that is commonly believed to have been the introduction of the Irish coffee to America. San Francisco's Buena Vista Cafe still serves this same recipe to the tune of 2000 to 2500 Irish coffees a day.

How to make an Irish Coffee

Making a traditional Irish coffee is a simple process that requires only a few ingredients. Start by heating up some coffee, then stir in a spoonful of brown sugar until it dissolves. Next, add a shot of Irish whiskey to the coffee and stir to combine. Finally, pour some lightly whipped cream over the top of the coffee, taking care to pour it slowly so that it floats on top of the coffee.

Or as Joe Sheridan, the drink's supposed inventor, was said to have described the recipe:

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.

While the basic recipe for Irish coffee has remained unchanged since its creation, there are many variations (including our favorite) that can be made to suit individual tastes. Some people prefer to use different types of whiskey, such as bourbon or scotch, while others like to add spices like cinnamon or nutmeg to their coffee. 

However you like your Irish coffee, it's one of our favorite drinks to mix in one of our Firelight Flasks thanks to the 24-hour temperature control they can offer. If you're headed out into the cold, you can mix up a batch that will stay straight-out-of-the pot hot for hours.

Irish Coffee in a High Camp 375
An Irish Coffee filled Firelight 375 and some puck. Nice little Saturday.

A couple pro tips for making and Irish coffee in a Firelight flask:

Before you create your Irish coffee, fill your flask with hot tap water to warm the inside of the flask. Then dump the water and pour in your coffee, whiskey, sugar & cream.

Admittedly it's tough to "float" cream in a Firelight flask, but we've found that a good organic heavy whipping cream (unwhipped) poured into the flask delivers a near identical flavor to the original recipe.

Basic Firelight 750 Flask Irish Coffee Recipe

  • 18 oz hot coffee
  • 4 oz Irish whiskey
  • 6 sugar cubes
  • 3 oz heavy whipping cream
  • Use a light shake to mix. Should pour out to 3-4 servings in the integrated magnetic tumblers.
  • Cut it in half for a Firelight 375 flask