One of Ireland’s best-known exports–adapted by bartenders around the world–is the Irish coffee, a boozy blend of coffee, Irish whiskey, sweetener, and cream, believed to have been coined around the mid-20th century in Limerick, in Southwest Ireland. Derek King, bar manager at Slane Distillery in Slane, Ireland, explains the beverage’s purported beginning:

A lot of tall tales exist around the origin of this amazing drink! To set the record straight, when we explain our inspiration for the Irish coffee, we look to Joe Sheridan, head chef from the Foynes Airbase Flying Boat Terminal in Co. Limerick. In 1942, a large group of shaken American passengers disembarked a failed crossing of the Atlantic after seven hours of trying! Joe, seeing all of the goings-on from the kitchen, decided to add Irish whiskey to the group’s coffee to calm their nerves. Passengers got very curious after tasting this coffee and took their question to Joe. They enquired if they had been served Brazilian coffee, to which chef Sheridan replied “No, that’s Irish Coffee!

Thanks in part to the ongoing proliferation of craft cocktail culture around the world, in tandem with the rise of third wave specialty coffee shops, these beverage worlds are colliding, inspiring bartenders to upgrade the most classic of coffee cocktails–the Irish coffee–with creative twists. While New York’s The Dead Rabbit may be best known for its traditional rendition–Bushmills Original Irish Whiskey, Demerara syrup, coffee, whipped cream–which has been on the award-winning bar’s menu since its inception in 2013, Michelin-starred gastropub Dusek’s Board & Beer in Chicago riffs on the libation, adding an orange syrup, orange bitters, and a smoked vanilla whipped cream to the tipple’s Irish Whiskey and coffee base.

Below, two recipes for Irish coffee: one more traditional construction straight from the motherland, plus a cool option for warm-weather imbibing.

Slane Irish Coffee

Makes 1

1 ounce Slane Irish Whiskey 

1 ounce vanilla bean Demerara syrup*

1 double espresso

1 ounce boiling water

1 ½ ounces double cream

Orange chocolate, for garnish

Dark chocolate, for garnish

Pour boiling water into a six-ounce Georgian glass until glass is hot, about one minute. Discard water. Add whiskey, Demerara syrup, espresso, and boiling water. Stir to combine. Top the coffee by pouring the double cream over the back of a spoon so that it floats atop the drink. Do not stir after adding the cream. Grate orange chocolate atop and garnish with a piece of chocolate. Serve immediately.

*Demerara Syrup

1 cup water

1 cup Demerara sugar

1 vanilla bean

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Transfer syrup to heat-resistant glass jar and add vanilla bean. Cover and allow mixture to infuse in the fridge for 48 hours. Syrup will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to two weeks.

Or chill out this summer with…

The Spaniard Iced Irish Coffee

By The Spaniard Bar Director Mike McFerran and Attaboy Owner Sam Ross

Makes 1

1 ounce chilled espresso
1 ounce cold water
1 ounce Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey
1/4 ounce Appleton Estate Reserve Rum
1/2 ounce Demerara syrup*
1 ounce (or more to taste) coconut-infused whipped heavy cream**

Combine espresso, water, whiskey, rum, and demerara syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until thoroughly chilled. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top the coffee by pouring the cream over the back of a spoon so that it floats. Do not stir after adding the cream. Serve immediately.

*Demerara Syrup

1 cup water

1 cup Demerara sugar

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Syrup will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to two weeks.

**Coconut-Infused Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread shredded coconut on an ungreased baking sheet and bake until light golden, about 10 minutes. Scald heavy cream in a medium saucepan. Add toasted coconut, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain mixture, discarding coconut pulp. Cover and refrigerate. Lightly whip the cream in batches in a cocktail shaker for approximately one minute, until thickened but still pourable. Whipped cream will keep, covered and refrigerated, for one day.

Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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