How Do You Make The Perfect Irish Coffee? 6 Key Components

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Let’s raise a glass or two to celebrate. Whilst a freshly pulled pint of Guinness is perhaps the most appropriate choice for a celebratory Irish beverage, we all know how heavy that second pint can be.

Instead, we’re celebrating the day with an Irish coffee, an incredibly tasty drink in any circumstance, but when done well, can be elevated to dizzy new heights. 

The drink is a game of fine margins, with just a few ingredients used to delicious ends, and today we’re revealing the secret flourishes that will help you achieve that perfect Irish coffee. 

Though the origins of Irish coffee are debated, one story suggests that the drink was invented in 1942 in Limerick by the chef and bartender Joseph Sheridan, with the main purpose to revive and soothe the spirit. This special recipe started to gain popularity when Sheridan, who was working in an establishment at Foynes Airport, starting serving it to transatlantic flying passengers who were forced to cancel their flight because of adverse weather conditions. 

From that moment, Irish coffee became the airport’s special drink. In 1952, it was taken to the United States by a travel writer named Stanton Delaplane and recreated in the popular Buena Vista cafe in San Francisco. 

Via word of mouth, Sheridan was then offered a job in San Francisco, with the goal of him replicating this now beloved drink for the masses. The rest, as they say, is history…

If you’re keen to follow in the footsteps of Sheridan and Delaplane, then you’ve come to the right place; here’s how to make the perfect Irish coffee.

The Glass

In order to get a perfect Irish coffee, you will have to pay attention to every small detail. So, the first important thing you need is a dainty 6-ounce glass which is shaped to show off the Irish coffee’s crowning glory, its delicately whipped cream.  

Having a tulip shaped glass will keep the balance of ingredients perfectly intact. It will also prevent an over-sized pour. When you are done with finding the perfect glass, make sure to heat it gently before making your drink. A great way to do it is to fill the glass with hot water and wait for it to get warm. 

If you don’t have a tulip shaped glass to hand, then a wine glass is a more sophisticated choice than a coffee mug!

By Billion Photos via Canva

The Coffee

Aside from warming your glass in advance, another way to avoid plunging the temperature of the drink is to ensure that your coffee is really hot and fresh. 

No stale, lukewarm coffee will do, as the drink will be mixed with cold cream and whisky at room temperature. Accordingly, you’ll want the overall temperature balance to be achieved via hot coffee.

But what coffee to use? Belfast’s Jack McGarryy, an aficionado on the subject from Dead Rabbit bar, says he prefers to use filter coffee for his Irish coffee recipe. He says that “espresso or Americano coffee overpowers the smooth and mellow Irish whiskey”. 

So, if you want to get the perfect taste we recommend you to use filter coffee. 

The Sugar

Sugar plays a very important role in this drink not only for the flavour, but also for the cream to float well (you want your Irish coffee to look like a perfectly poured Guinness).

In the original recipe, brown sugar was used and the majority of modern recipes call for the same. You can opt for spoonfuls, cubes or even syrup, just make sure to keep the amount in balance with the other ingredients. 

The previously mentioned Jack Mcgarry uses syrup while the original Buena Vista coffee shop suggests cubes of C&H lumped cane sugar. The perfect excuse to try out both methods and choose the one that you like most, don’t you think?

The Booze

The most popular and authentic whiskey to use in Irish coffee drinks is Tullamore D.E.W Irish whiskey. If you want to stick to the traditional recipe we recommend you use it, though other whiskeys will suffice; just make on the sweeter side, a single malt, and most importantly, that it’s Irish.

Jameson works well, too.

The Cream

Last but not least… the cream. The white collar made of whipped cream that stays on top of the coffee is the last ingredient and the crowning glory you’ll need for achieving that perfect Irish coffee. The version from Buena Vista uses heavy whipping cream that is slowly whipped in an upright blender in order to get the perfect cream, though we’ve found double cream works, too. It should never be sweetened.

McGarry says that the most important aspect about the cream is the amount of fat that’s in it. He suggests using cream with 36% or more of fat in order to get the whipped cream to float perfectly. For a single serving, around two tablespoons of cream (pre-whip) works well.

After you’ve whipped the cream, an interesting method is used to top off your coffee; warm up a spoon, and place that spoon over your coffee-filled glass. Then, slowly pour your cream over the back of the warmed spoon held above the coffee, raising the spoon slowly as you do so. 

Though it takes some practice, the spoon serves the break up the flow of the cream, helping you separate the whipped cream from the coffee. And the result? The perfect Irish coffee. 

Read: 8 of the world’s best coffee and alcohol cocktails


We like our Irish coffee strong and assertive, a ratio of 3:1 freshly brewed coffee to Irish whiskey is a good start. For one serving (multiply the servings to make more), 150ml of coffee to 50ml of whiskey works well. 

Pour your hot coffee into the tulip shaped glass, then add the whiskey and roughly a teaspoon of brown sugar – you can increase or reduce according to your preferred sweetness.

Then, add your whipped cream in the method we recommended earlier, and enjoy!

*This article is intended for those who are 18 or over. Please drink responsibly*

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