Original Irish coffee

Original Irish Coffee

There are plenty of pretenders to the throne, but this is the truly legitimate recipe for the original Irish coffee. It has to be one of the most renowned Irish drinks, and several people claim to have invented the recipe.

But it’s hard to believe that only one human thought of putting together this very easy Irish mixed drink. Irish coffee: whiskey, and lots of it. Accompanied in a Warmed Glass by Sugar Syrup. Followed by Hot Coffee. Then Topped with Cream. There you have it!

Why even bother with other half-baked recipes when the authentic version is so simple?

Narrative flow

Everyone is a hindsight expert, right? Once something has been done, it’s glaringly obvious to the pack. On this point, see our view of those groundbreaking animals we call humans, in the ANTIblog Manifesto.

Original Irish Coffee

But in the case of the original Irish coffee, who was the homo sapien that pushed us forward?

And lest we get ahead of ourselves, it’s worth pointing out that coffee, cream and liquor..aka ‘Irish coffee’.. have been served in Parisian and Viennese cafes since the 19th century. Should we perhaps pick out a name for them, too? Let’s just agree that everyone knows it was that, coincidentally half Austrian, half French wretch who worked in the back kitchen whilst the aristocracy out front belched and whipped passerbys with their canes. The fortuitously named Lieb Boisson. What a hero.

The truth of who invented the modern recipe for Irish (whiskey, cream and) coffee has a number of takes, but the most REAL, AUTHENTIC and WELL-KNOWN AND LOVED story (or at least hardest driven into the collective narrative) is a good one. With its protagonist a wonderfully marketable, happy-go-lucky and unassuming all-round nice guy from the Wee North. Who would battle adversity and the staunch bigotry that reigned in 1940s Ireland to serve his cream to the lips of Hollywood starlets and senators.

History of the original Irish coffee

Joe Sheridan was born in County Tyrone in 1909. Known for his nonchalant demeanor and 24k heart of precious metal, his job application for the position of chef at Foynes airbase has gone down in the annals of succinctness:

Dear Sir,

I’m the man for the job.

Yours sincerely,

Joe Sheridan

..and, as it turned out, he most certainly was! In 1943, Sheridan took up his post at the restaurant at Foynes.

With the Second World War raging in Euro-Atlantic skies, what had been an obscure yet ideally situated stopover, perched right on the edge of the second-vastest ocean, Foynes had suddenly grown into one of Europe’s largest civilian airports. And in that tumultuous winter of 1943, it was to receive an even more enduring boon.

Joe Sheridan, a surely likable fellow

The precise stories (read lore) vary, but it seems that come one fateful yet distressingly windy and wet Limerick night, Chef Joe Sheridan stepped into the history/cookery books. Taking pity on a crowd of passengers coming off a Pan Am flying boat, the Ulsterman set himself to whipping up something extra special. A brew that could simultaneously bring the warming and energizing his dangerously fatigued guests required.

And there it started, both for the original Irish coffee and celebrity creator Joe Sheridan from Castlederg, Co. Tyrone.

Vultures that fly

On a stopover at Foyne’s successor, the newly built Shannon International Airport, the fortuitously named Stanton Delaplane would sample the house specialty. Providentially born into a society holding entrepreneurial endeavor in high regard, on his return to San Francisco Stanton from the plane convinced his pal Jack Koeppler at the Buena Vista Café to carry out preliminary market research into the possibility of swiping the idea.

Primed on commerce himself, and with a shrewd understanding of the underlying mechanics governing movement of labor, the proprietor would go one better — making his own version, then swiping coffee creator Joe Sheridan from his undoubtedly dreary Ireland someplace. Sheridan followed his creation to sun-kissed California in 1952. The original Irish coffee count at the Buena Vista currently stands around the 30-million mark.

Irish food traditions roll of honor

As for our beloved Chef Sheridan, he now floats on high amongst the heroes of human endeavor. Those brave women and men pulling the rest of us up from the mud, ANTIblog Manifesto-style. Finding ways to pass the time, Sir Sheridan can be seen Milking cows with Mother Teresa, Popping into the School of Athens for a cup of joe, High-Fiving Gandhi at the Irish liquor store.

The US celebrates National Irish Coffee Day on January 25th

Meanwhile back in the mire, the homage at his Oakland grave reads “Here lies Joe Sheridan, the inventor of the world’s most famous drink: Irish coffee.” The Joe Sheridan Cafe Bar at Shannon Airport features in the profile photo of that person you know doing an Irish trip (taken under the plaque commemorating the precise moment in winter 1943 when human civilization walked out of the darkness).

An annual Irish Coffee Festival is held each summer at Foynes Flying Boat Museum, with the highlight for profile photo hunters the World Irish Coffee Championship. A rival Irish Coffee Festival on the other side of the Atlantic ran for 33 years at Spalding University in the town of horses, Louisville, Kentucky. The US as a whole celebrates National Irish Coffee Day on January 25th (go figure, presumably March 17th is Beef from a Can and Green Sparkly Twinkie Surprises Day).

Irish coffee: whiskey and marketing

Do take a moment to Walk in the footsteps of giant killers as you Whip (cream) up this iconic Irish drink. And Learn from the undisputed facts of history, too. Lore ascribes that at first the Buena Vista couldn’t get the dairy to float on the coffee right, and so contacted the Mayor of San Francisco, George Christopher, for his take on the matter.

As you naturally would.

Expertly currying favor with the electorate, the public servant came up trumps for the Buena Vista’s hardworking research team. Who, now armed with the knowledge that cream a couple of days old would sit better, labored night and day towards success.

Several major studios are vying for the rights to American Irish Coffee: The Game Changer

Defying the baking southern heat and achingly cold desert night to attain the ultimate victory. American Irish coffee was brought to life. The age of Eureka had hit the New World.

They knew immediately they were on to something. Something big.

Original Irish Coffee Recipe

And they were right. For they had now invented a wonderfully commercial version of something wonderful that had already been invented. Which is miles better, obviously.

Several major studios are vying for the rights to American Irish Coffee: The Game Changer, eager to impart onto their audience the true wisdom as to which kind of cream to use. But until next next summer’s blockbuster is made, premiered, and available for illegal download, why not get a two-year head start by taking it on yourself to not use super fresh or startlingly light cream in your Irish coffee.

As regards the best Irish coffee whiskey, there are many outstanding choices, it’s completely up to you. However, do try to use whiskey from fair Erin’s Isle – and remember to drink quickly, the heat is killing that high-quality Irish alcohol!

Real Irish coffee should be Served hot hot hot, so unless it’s mitten season, use a glass with a handle. Add this to moderation: now that’s drinking responsibly!

Ingredients for Original Irish Coffee à la Joe Sheridan

Makes one decent-sized example.

  • 2 oz+ (60 ml+) Irish Whiskey, a double shot
  • 5 oz (150 ml) Black Coffee, freshly brewed
  • 2 Tbsp Muscovado Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Double Cream


  1. Take a Heatproof Glass and Fill with Hot Water. Leave to stand.
  2. You can Whip your Cream until it starts to thicken and Set aside. This is bit of a cheat, though, and wasn’t part of the original recipe – buying a very thick cream or taking Mayor Christopher’s advice (see above) should solve this.
  3. Pour a little Water into a Pan. Bring to a boil and Dissolve the Sugar in the water. It should quickly turn into Syrup. Remove from heat and Stir in the Whiskey.
  4. Empty the warmed Glass, Pour in the Whiskey-Syrup, then Stir in the Coffee.
  5. Float the Cream on top by gently Pouring it in over the back of a Bar Spoon.

Garnish with a pinch of Cinnamon or grated Nutmeg – but do watch out, that stuff is strong! And by itself this Irish coffee-whiskey hit will already have you flying Foynes high!

Goes perfect alongside the more traditional Irish desserts, such as Irish apple cake – on Patrick’s or any other day.

Irish coffee advertisement on pub wall
Crassly merchandised the world over, the original Irish coffee remains unperturbed.