If you’re not into St. Patrick’s Day festivities that require guzzling green, cheap American beer, perhaps you’ll consider sipping a beverage that is actually Irish in origin.

Irish coffee is a warm, creamy cocktail invented in Ireland in the 1940s. Unlike many drinks thrown together from excess ingredients, the Irish coffee was created with a purpose. Joe Sheridan was the head chef at the restaurant and coffee shop in the Foynes Airbase Flying boat terminal building in County Limerick, Ireland.  When a group of group of weary American passengers disembarked in Foynes after a long, failed flight, canceled mid-air due to poor weather conditions, Sheridan whipped up the drink and served it to them to keep them warm. Legend has it that after he was asked if it was Brazilian coffee, Sheridan replied that it was Irish coffee.

The beverage caught on.

In 1945 when transatlantic flights began to land at the nearby Shannon airport, Irish coffee was served there as well, and soon it caught the eye of travel writer Stanton Delaplane. Delaplane worked with the Buena Vista Cafe bar owners, Jack Koeppler and George Freeberg, in San Fransisco to set about recreating the sweet and strong laced beverage. After much trial and error, the trio found the perfect recipe, right down to figuring out how to keep the cream properly floating on top and started serving it in the States in 1952.

Today, the Buena Vista serves up to 2,000 Irish Coffees every day.


If you can’t make it to San Fransisco this St. Patrick’s Day, you can try to make your own at home. Tip: The original recipe calls explicitly for cream that has not been whipped, but the little bit of air helps newcomers to the drink keep the cream afloat.

From the original, there have spun many variations of Irish coffee cocktails. Above is one recommended by the Buena Vista. Below is the original brown sugar recipe as created by Chef Joe Sheridan. And if it’s St. Patrick’s Day, get a little extra cheery and try both!

Original Irish Coffee recipe


  • “A good measure of Irish whiskey” ( about 1 1/2 ounces)
  • 6 ounces hot, freshly brewed black coffee
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • freshly whipped cream


  1. In a small bowl, whisk heavy cream until lightly-stiff peaks form — about 1-2 minutes. It should still be pourable. (Never sweeten the cream.)
  2. Pour hot water into a mug to warm it up for 5 seconds, then dump it out.
  3. Add 1 teaspoon of brown sugar and Irish whiskey into the warmed glass.
  4. Fill the mug to within about a half inch of the brim with hot, black coffee. Stir well, until sugar is dissolved.
  5. Using the back of a spoon, carefully pour the homemade whipped cream so it runs off the backside and into to coffee mixture, making sure the cream floats on top of the coffee
  6. Do not stir. The best flavor is said to come from enjoying the drink through the cream.

Also see, Here’s how much Americans will spend on St. Patrick’s Day festivities this year. 

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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.