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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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tim powers said:

I am impressed, one of the very few “proper” preparations on the web.


startcooking said:

Hi Tim,
Thanks! As you can probably imagine, I LOVED doing the research and testing for this recipe!

Cindy said:

Wow! Now I know what to do with those four Irish Coffee mugs I got for Christmas a few years ago! Thank you!

Cindy said:

I am an avide coffee drinker and now I can try some real Irish coffee. Thanks for the info and wonderful pictures.

joy said:

Wow….I have always been dreaming for making Irish coffee myself…now my dream can come true! lol…..

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