Irish Coffee

posted in Beverages by Kathy Maister
difficulty rating

Irish coffee is a delicious drink made with only four ingredients; coffee, cream, sugar, and whiskey. Some people vary the ingredients, but I’m going to show you the “classic” way to make Irish coffee.

The final taste is affected by the strength of the coffee, the type of whiskey you use, the way you add the cream, whether or not you use brown or white sugar and, of course, the proportions used of each ingredient.

Another choice when making Irish coffee is the type of glass or mug you will use. The “classic” glass is a 6-ounce stemmed glass. Another familiar glass or mug used is an 8-ounce mug with a handle. This type of mug actually seems a bit more practical for holding a hot cup of liquids.

The basics steps to make Irish coffee are

  1. Warm the glass
  2. Fill the glass 2/3 full of coffee
  3. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and stir (3 teaspoons for the larger glass)
  4. Add 1 ounce of whiskey (1 ½ ounce for the larger glass)
  5. Top with prepared cream
  6. Assign designated driver

If you are making several Irish coffees, do one first and taste it to see if you need to adjust the proportions.

Step 1. Warming the Glass
You can run the glass under hot (or warm) water to warm the glass. Leave the hot water in the glass while you are making the coffee and preparing the cream. The thick mug type of glass is usually made of tempered glass so that it will not crack when you use it for hot liquids. If you are using a stemmed glass, you need to be more careful that is doesn’t shatter from the hot water — use water with a lower temperature.

Step 2. Fill the glass 2/3 full of coffee

Make a pot (or French Press) of fresh coffee. This is not the time to use flavored coffee.

Step 3. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and stir

Don’t skip this step, even if you don’t normally put sugar in your coffee. The sugar actually helps the cream to float above the coffee. You can use either brown or white sugar.

Step 4. Add 1 ounce of whiskey

This amount can be adjusted according to your taste and the size of the glass you use.

Bartenders may pour straight from the bottle but measuring cups are more accurate for the untrained eye.

Step 5. Top with cream

This is the critical step to get the classic look and drinking experience. You must pour heavy cream over the back of a spoon so that about ½ inch of cream floats on top of the coffee. You actually drink the coffee through the cream. You are not meant to blend the two layers together.

As an option, you can thicken the cream by whipping it with a whisk, ever so slightly.

This will help you to keep these layers separate when you are making your Irish coffee. My first pour of the cream was done using heavy cream which I did not whisk. The photo below is what’s not not supposed to happen!

Over in England they sell what’s called “double cream” which is much thicker than our heavy cream and probably doesn’t need to get whisked.

Do not sweeten the cream. You also may be tempted to use a can of whipped cream, but don’t!

Step 6. Assign a designated driver

Of course!

Irish coffee is actually a great drink to serve with dessert or with cookies. There are some who would like to make their Irish coffee look a bit more seasonal by adding a drizzle of green Crème de Menthe over the top. (I cringed when I heard this, then I took a sip of this Irish coffee with Crème de Menthe. It is really delicious!)

A slice of my Mom’s Irish Bread is perfect with this Irish Coffee!


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12 Twists on Instant Hot Chocolate

posted in Beverages by Lisa Freeman

Chilly afternoons cry out for mugs of steaming hot chocolate. It’s time to rescue all those instant hot chocolate packets wedged in the back of the cupboard! If you’ve got the time and ingredients to make homemade hot chocolate, by all means do so.

But there’s no shame in going instant, especially if you jazz it up with different flavors.

Just follow the package instructions for making the hot chocolate, and then try one of these 12 twists – topped off with marshmallows or whipped cream, of course.

  1. Caramel: A tablespoon of caramel sauce can do wonders for hot chocolate. Spoon in your favorite brand and give it a good stir right before you take your first sip.
  2. Ice cream: It may sound weird to put something cold in your hot cocoa, but a scoop of ice cream makes it really creamy and thick. Make sure your hot chocolate is as hot as you can get it without allowing it to boil, and pop in a scoop of your favorite ice cream.
  3. Cinnamon, Nutmeg or Vanilla extract: A 1/4 teaspoon of any of these always adds zip.
  4. Orange Zest: Carve three 2-inch long strips of orange rind (the skin) and let them steep in your drink for a while before tasting. That citrus flavor is a delight.
  5. Espresso or Coffee: You can either add a tablespoon of fresh brewed coffee or espresso, or you can use the instant stuff.
  6. Peppermint Stick: Drop a peppermint stick or even one of those peppermint candies you picked up at your last restaurant visit. It adds great flavor, and a great smell. This version is nice if you’ve got a cold.
  7. Dark or White Chocolate Shavings: Dig that Hershey bar out of your bag and grab a grater. Sprinkling a few shreds of the real deal into your drink – or on the whipped cream on top of it – can only make things more heavenly.
  8. Peanut Butter: If you’re crazy for peanut butter , take a tablespoon or two and mix it into your cocoa. Just be sure to mix really well until it melts.
  9. Habanero Pepper or a Shot of Hot Sauce: Got a hankering for something hot and spicy? A dash of your favorite hot sauce kicks a hot chocolate into high gear. You can even drop in 2 fresh slices of a fresh Habanero pepper into your cocoa and stir the flavor in.
  10. Hot Cherries: Nearly everyone has that jar of maraschino cherries sitting in the fridge, so drop two or three teaspoons of the juice into your drink, along with a cherry. Tastes like drinking a chocolate cordial.
  11. Coconut Milk: Put a tropical spin on your hot chocolate by substituting some of the milk required with a 1/4 cup of coconut milk.
  12. Maple Syrup: It’s not just for waffles and pancakes! A squirt of the unique taste of maple syrup livens up ordinary old hot chocolate.


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Wine and Chocolate for Valentine’s Day

posted in Beverages, Sweets by Kathy Maister

I received the following from Natalie MacLean, author of “Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass”.


Hi Start Cooking,

Want to seduce someone this Valentine’s Day? Just share a glass of wine (or three) with your sweetheart. Wine is liquid sensuality: Its heady bouquet stimulates the appetite and its velvet caress soothes that desire. What other drink is described as both ‘voluptuous’ and ‘muscular’? And when you pair wine with the mouth-coating luxury of chocolate, the combination is impossible to resist.

The creamy flavors of chocolate go best with sweet, full-bodied, high-alcohol wines.
My top 10 wine and chocolate matches:

1. Dark Chocolate and Banyuls, France
2. Chocolate-Covered Biscotti and Recioto Della Valpolicella, Italy
3. Chocolate-Orange Cake and Liqueur Muscat, Australia
4. Chocolate with Nuts and Tawny Port, Portugal
5. Milk Chocolate and Tokaji, Hungary
6. Bittersweet Chocolate and Amarone, Italy
7. Chocolate-Dipped Fruit and Icewine, Canada
8. Chocolate Ganache Truffles and Sauternes, France
9. Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake and Framboise, California
10. Chocolate Hearts with Cream Filling and Cream Sherry, Spain


Natalie suggests wines to complement 50 chocolate dishes in her online matching tool at Just click on “desserts” to find pairings for chocolate mud pie to chocolate cheesecake. Her online food-and-wine matcher doesn’t just focus on chocolate. The interactive tool has thousands of wines to pair with any dish: meat, pasta, seafood, vegetarian fare, pizza, eggs, cheese and dessert. You simply choose the food or wine from a drop-down menu to get the pairing suggestions. There are also lots of recipes for those planning a romantic meal. The matcher is updated regularly with new dishes and wines from the 85,000-plus readers who subscribe to Natalie’s free e-newsletter, which offers tips on how to buy, cellar and serve wine.

Natalie has won four James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award. Eric Asimov of the New York Times calls Natalie’s approach “a winning formula,” describing her as “the disarming Everywoman … she loves wine, loves drinking.”

Thanks, Natalie for sharing your expertise!

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