Irish Coffee

Did you know that the Irish Coffee was perfected right in San Francisco at one of our favorite drinking spots the Buena Vista?  Did you know it is not just hot coffee, any old whiskey and a dollop of “whipped cream”?

Originally the Irish coffee experiment began at the Shannon Airport in Ireland on a chilly November evening in 1952.  Two friends, Jack Koeppler (then-owner of the Buena Vista) and international travel writer Stanton Delaplane spent the evening pouring, mixing and drinking coffee concoctions.  Unfortunately, the drink was not perfected at that time, even though, I am sure they had fun trying.

The two men went their separate ways, and Jack returned home to San Francisco where he continued working on the hot toddy.  After the jaunt at the Shannon airport, it was confirmed  that the drink was not right, as the whiskey was not perfect and the cream did not float.  Jack continued mixing and pouring until he found the perfect Irish whiskey to use in the toddy;  then he moved onto making cream “float”.  He reached out to the mayor of San Francisco for his expertise as he was also a prominent dairy owner.  Jack learned that the cream had to be lightly frothed, in order to reach the consistency that would “float” on top of the drink.  Hence, the Irish Coffee was complete.

To make a traditional (and proper) Irish Coffee you must follow the following steps:

  • Irish Coffee Glasses must used and preheated before mixing the drink.
  • Black coffee.
  • Brown sugar cubes;  not white.  Sugar is a must as it helps the liquid cream float.
  • Irish Whiskey must be used, no other will do.
  • Heavy cream that has been frothed is carefully poured over the back of a spoon that is held just above the surface of the coffee and raised a little.  The cream will float and you will enjoy the spiked warm coffee through the cream.









  1. Quite a few of these were consumed right here in my town… If I even think about another one of these, I may be a little drunk. They’re darn good though!

  2. What a fun piece of history! I have to add that Murph’s Clubhouse Pub is the luckiest station inside our Giants’ AT&T park. Nothing warms me up during a windy game like one of their San Franciscan, Irish coffees.

    Thanks for inspiring me to make one of these myself

  3. Hi there! Just a quick note to let you know we are running a cocktail contest on our Facebook page. Feel free to enter with one of your delicious and original recipes! The best one gets a prize! Entries open until March 25th 2012.

  4. My that’s a lovely photo! And I was just talking to a friend yesterday about going to the Buena Vista (she rec’d breakfast) sometime soon. Serendipity!

  5. cathy says:

    Great recipe, lovely photo and I really enjoyed the story. You might want to work on your punctuation though, specifically the rules for using commas. If you write, especially publicly, you might as well write correctly.

  6. Thanks for the wonderful recipe for an amazing drink. Forget about the punctuation, sharing is a gift from you to us.

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