An Irish Coffee is the best of the best as far as coffee cocktails go that will warm you from the inside out. This classic coffee drink is acceptable to enjoy not just on St. Patricks Day, but all year long and on any day that ends in y.
What is Irish coffee?
A mix of hot sweetened coffee, Irish whiskey, and whipped cream make up an Irish coffee. This classic mixed coffee drink is a double whammy of caffeine and booze that immediately warms you up on a chilly evening. It’s cozy, delicious, and can be made in minutes.
Why is it called Irish Coffee? The story goes that in 1943 there was a small flight of passengers rerouted from New York back to Limerick, Ireland due to bad weather. Joe Sheridan, a chef and bartender, was asked to whip up some food and drinks for the freezing travelers, which was very well received. One man asked, “Is this Brazilian coffee?” “No,” Joe Sheridan said, “it’s Irish coffee.” The name stuck and has become one of the world’s most popular drinks.
Irish Coffee Ingredients
Technically you only need hot coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar, and whipped cream to make Irish coffee. We also take this warm cocktail up a notch with a bit of Baileys Irish Cream.
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- Coffee – You’ll need strong brewed hot coffee.
- Sugar – White sugar, brown sugar, or a combination of the two can be used to sweeten the coffee. We prefer brown sugar because of its caramel molasses flavor that pairs so well with whiskey, but using a little of both also gives the drink a good balance of sweetness.
- Irish Whiskey – Irish coffee should be made with Jameson Irish whiskey. It’s smooth, sweet, and subtly spicy. If for some reason, you want to use a different brand, just make sure it’s mid-range and has a mild, sweet taste to balance out the coffee.
- Heavy whipping cream – Cold heavy whipping cream is whipped to fluffy soft peaks.
- Baileys Irish Cream (optional) – We beat this with the heavy cream for the best tasting whipped cream!
How to Make Irish Coffee
If you’ve never had Irish coffee before, this Irish coffee recipe is a great introduction. This hot cocktail is so simple to make in just a couple minutes. Here’s a summary:
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for complete details.)
- Make the whipped cream. Using an electric mixer, combine the heavy cream and Baileys. Whip together until fluffy soft peaks are reached.
- Add the remaining ingredients. To a warm coffee mug, add whiskey, brown sugar, and hot coffee. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Float the cream on top. Gently dollop the whipped cream high over the top, being careful not to break the coffee’s surface, so you end up with a thick, very generous layer above the coffee. (See note below.)
- Drink and enjoy. Drink the hot coffee through the cream – do not stir! So delish!
How to Whip Heavy Cream for Irish Coffee
Very lightly whipped cream will give you a frothy cream collar. You need to pour it very slowly over a warm spoon onto the coffee. Without some practice, you’ll likely break the surface of the coffee. We prefer to whip the cream and Baileys to soft peaks and gently dollop it high over the top.
You’re after soft peaks of whipped cream, not stiff peaks. What that means is, the cream should be fluffy but still pourable. Not sure how to tell? Take a whisk and dunk it into the middle of the whipped cream, then pull it out. No peak on the end? Keep beating. If the peak stands up, but slowly curls back into itself, you’re good to go! If the peak points straight up and stays there, it’s too stiff. For more helpful tips on this, check out our homemade whipped cream recipe.
Warm Up The Glass First
Traditional Irish coffee is served in a glass mug and the old school way is to preheat the mug first before pouring in your hot coffee. This ensures the glass doesn’t crack and also keeps your coffee warm a bit longer. This is optional, but we do recommend it. You simply pour hot water into a mug or heatproof glass, then discard it before building the drink.
This classic coffee drink can be enjoyed all year round, but to make your Irish meal complete, start with some Irish Beef Stew, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Shepherd’s Pie, or Bangers and Mash and a side of Irish Soda Bread. Or enjoy breakfast for dinner with some Corned Beef Hash. Finish off the evening with a cup of Irish coffee and a slice of pistachio cake!
More Classic Cocktails
- 1/2 cup cold heavy whipping cream
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream
- 1/4 cup Jameson Irish whiskey
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 2 cups strong brewed hot coffee
- chocolate shavings for garnish, completely optional but why not?!
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the heavy cream and Baileys. Whip together until fluffy soft peaks are reached. Set aside.
- Warm up 2 heatproof glass coffee mugs: pour hot water into each glass, then discard.
- To each glass add 2 tablespoons whiskey, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and 1 cup hot coffee. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Gently dollop the whipped cream high over the top, being careful not to break the coffee’s surface, so you end up with a thick, very generous layer above the coffee.
- Garnish with chocolate shavings, if desired. Drink the hot coffee through the cream – do not stir! So delish!