An Irish Coffee

Irish Coffee: A Transatlantic Love Affair

Long before pumpkin spice lattes became the signature seasonal beverage of so many, another hot drink enjoyed the limelight in winter. Pumpkin spice is famous for having  pride of place in the drink holders of minivans across North America as busy parents ferry their children to a whirlwind of activities, but Irish coffee has its roots in travel too.

The recipe for Irish coffee

In the early days of aviation, planes couldn’t get from the USA to continental Europe without a stop along the way, and Foynes Airport in County Limerick was the main hub. (This was before Shannon Airport.) Flying then was completely unlike it is now. People dressed up to fly, and the airlines really looked after their passengers. One stormy winter night in 1943, a plane bound for New York had to turn around because conditions were so bad.

The shaken passengers disembarked and were greeted by airport staff who had returned to worked after the airport had closed for the night – including the airport chef Joe Sheridan. He quickly saw that those passengers needed something to warm them up and steady their nerves. Sheridan poured himself into history by mixing coffee, Irish whiskey and cream in perfect proportion. The new drink was quickly dubbed Irish coffee, and it soon became one of the most sought after Irish gifts of the day.

An Irish Gift’s Journey from Limerick to California

You might expect Irish coffee’s next stop to be Boston or New York, but instead it was San Francisco. The drink became popular at Shannon Airport’s bar, and a travel writer from California tried it there and loved it. When he returned home, he explained the wonderful new drink to the bartender at his local bar. They tried and failed many times to perfect the Irish coffee, but the cream was different in the US and it sunk. It took a very long time, but now the Buena Vista in San Francisco proudly serves a delicious Irish coffee. And on winter days when the fog rolls in over the peninsula, it’s just the thing to warm you up.

Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista San Francisco
summer parkIrishcoffeeCC BY 2.0

A pumpkin spice latte might be great to fuel you through a day of work or chauffeuring children around, but once you get home and hang up the car keys for the day, nothing is quite like putting your feet up and sipping a hot Irish coffee, especially if it is served in a stylish glass mug. And if you aren’t a coffee drinker, you might like another less famous Irish treat – a splash of whiskey in a mug of tea. Try it with a bit of honey and a little milk, and it will warm your bones if you’ve been out in the rain and cold.

Find the perfect glass for your Irish Coffee

If someone would just get to work on developing a barmbrack latte, we could have a hot Irish drink we could enjoy while motoring around on errands on a chilly autumn day. That would certainly join the ranks of beloved Irish gifts in no time!