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Kitchen Index Irish Kitchen Library

A Taste of Ireland: Irish Coffee
by Bridget Haggerty

We've updated this article to include a little bit more of the history of where Irish Coffee originated. Now a favorite after-dinner drink all over the world, many people are surprised to learn that it’s a relatively recent invention.

The Irish Coffee story begins at Foynes Airbase in Limerick. By 1937, the base was well-established as the main airport for Flying Boats between America and Europe. By 1940, the airport was handling a large number of passengers, including VIPs such as John F Kennedy, Yehudi Menuhin, Humphrey Bogart, Eleanor Roosevelt, Edward G Robinson, Ernest Hemmingway and Douglas Fairbanks Sr.; they, along with all of the other passengers would rest in the airport while the flying boat was prepared for its next journey. Sometimes the wait could be overnight due to bad weather.

While there was a restaurant in operation, when DeValera visited Foynes he saw the need for a 1st class establishment which would serve only the best of Irish food and drink. A young man named Brendan O’Regan was offered the job of creating a venue that would present a new image of Ireland and its people to the world. Brendan contacted John & Putzel Hunt to design the interior and in 1942, the new restaurant was up and running. with Chef Joe Sheridan at the helm.

Born in Bridgetown, Castlederg, Co. Tyrone in 1909, Joe Sheridan was one of seven children of Michael and Mary Margaret Sheridan. In 1928, the family moved to Dublin. Joe was working in Pims of Georges Street, Dublin when he applied for the position of Chef at the new restaurant in Foynes. He was offered the job and he accepted.

One winter night, in 1942, a flight left Foynes for Botwood, Newfoundland and then on to New York. After five grueling hours of battling a storm, the decision was made to turn back - not an unusual occurrence. The restaurant was informed to prepare food and drink, as the passengers would be cold and miserable.

Joe decided the passengers needed something special to warm them up. He brewed dark, rich coffee, splashed in some Irish whiskey and topped each cup off with freshly whipped cream. Supposedly, there was a hushed silence as cups were raised and the brew was tasted for the first time. "Hey Buddy," said a surprised American passenger, "is this Brazilian coffee?" "No," said Mr. Sheridan, "that's Irish Coffee."

Needless to say, the coffee received rave reviews. In fact, Stanton Delaplane, an international travel writer, enjoyed it so much, he brought the recipe back to Jack Koeppler, a bartender at the Buena Vista Hotel in San Francisco. They attempted to recreate it, but without success. The cool cream on top kept sinking. Mr. Koeppler returned to Ireland to learn the correct way to make it - and that led to an interesting twist on this story.

In October 1945, as the era of the Flying Boat came to an end, Foynes Airbase closed in order to make way for landplanes. A new airport was opened on the other side of the Shannon Estuary - Rineanna, which is now known as Shannon International Airport. Joe Sheridan took his famous drink to the new airport and then, in 1952, he was offered the opportunity to spread his wings. He accepted a position at the Buena Vista in San Francisco where he continued to make and introduce customers to his uniquely Irish creation.

The rest, as they say, is more than 60 years of history. What follows is Mr. Sheridan's original recipe. If possible, use Bewleys coffee which is readily available, but don’t try to make it at all unless the whiskey is genuine Irish. (To see our article, please click Irish Whiskey.)

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.

Heat a stemmed whiskey goblet
Pour in one jigger of Irish whiskey
Add one spoon of brown sugar. Fill with strong black coffee to within one inch of the brim
Stir to dissolve the sugar. Top off with whipped cream, slightly aerated, by pouring it over the back of a spoon, so that it floats.
Do not stir after adding the cream as the true flavor is obtained by drinking the hot coffee and Irish whiskey through the cream.

Today, the town of Foynes, along with the Powers Whiskey Company, holds an Irish Coffee Festival every year. Visitors can look forward to enjoying a wide range of free family activities, including choosing the Powers World Irish Coffee-making champion. More details will be posted at the official Irish Coffee site as they become available.

To learn more please click Foynes Irish Coffee Festival.

Click here for our related article on Irish Whiskey

Content & Images: Irish Coffee Festival

Any purchase made helps to support our site (and our coffee addiction; we confess to three pots a day). Thank you.


Thu, Jul 9, 2015

"...the freshest of food and
the oldest of drink"
- Irish Proverb

The New Irish Table
by Margaret Johnson

Margaret Johnson’s love of Ireland permeates page after glorious page of mouthwatering Irish dishes, from Smoked Salmon Chowder to Raspberry Buttermilk Tarts. Lavish color photographs of the food, the landscapes, and the people are woven through the text, making The New Irish Table the next best thing to sitting down to dinner in Ireland itself.
Click here for New Irish Table.


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March 4, 2011
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