The first time I tried Irish coffee was actually within my first few months in DC. Classmates and I got to campus at 6am on a frigid November morning in hopes of scoring a coveted seat to an event at which Hillary Clinton was speaking. Around 9:30 we were turned around, told the venue was full. Feeling cold, tired, and dejected, I was in need of two things: coffee and alcohol. So what did I order when we were finally seated at Kafe Leopold? An Irish coffee…and another…and another…
What is an Irish coffee? Well, it wasn’t actually named as such until the mid-20th century, but drinks of the sort have been around for ages. However, it was officially “invented” on a stormy night in 1942 at Foynes, an airbase near Limerick, Ireland. After one plane was diverted back to Foynes due to the storm, the recently-opened restaurant at the base was prepared to warm up agitated passengers with food and drink. Chef Joe Sheridan created a warm concoction of coffee, sugar, whiskey, and cream for the passengers, supposedly resulting in a silence among the crowd while everyone imbibed. As legend has it, one man piped up, “Is this Brazilian coffee?” to which Sheridan responded, “No, that’s Irish coffee.”
Travel writer Stanton Delaplane brought the recipe back to his bartending buddy at the Buena Vista Hotel in San Fransisco, and that is really where the drink took off. However, the bartender couldn’t get it to work – the cream would always sink to the bottom of the mug. So he made the trip to Foynes and learned from the master. Buena Vistas are now famously known for their Irish coffees, and this is how we got the drink in the States.
The best places for an Irish coffee in DC are cafes with both a coffee and bar program, such as The Coupe or Busboys & Poets. However, it’s also easy to make at home, which is exactly what I’m going to do when I get off work today using the following recipe.
IRISH COFFEE RECIPE
-one cup of hot coffee (I recommend something chocolate-y)
-one tablespoon of brown sugar
-three tablespoons of Irish whiskey (Jameson is my go-to)
-heavy cream, slightly whipped
First warm up your mug by sticking it in the microwave or flushing it with hot water. Add coffee until your mug is about 3/4 full. Stir in brown sugar until fully dissolved, followed by whiskey. Top with cold heavy cream, slightly whipped, pouring it over the back of a spoon or gently spooning it in. Drink your coffee through the cream and enjoy! If you’re not a whiskey person, try substituting Bailey’s instead. This will result in a sweeter, creamier drink.
Where’s your favorite place to get Irish coffee in the District? Do you have a secret to making it at home? Let us know in the comments below! And have a fun, caffeinated, and safe St. Patrick’s Day!