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History of the classic Irish Coffee cocktail

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1945–1952 | Shannon, Ireland

Irish coffee – or, as the Italians call it, caffe corretto – first appeared in the small town of Shannon, in the south of Ireland. Back then, transatlantic flights had to stop for refuelling, and travellers would often pass their evenings at the airport in Foynes, also known for its bar culture.

Exhausted after an 18-hour seaplane flight, passengers arrived at the terminal by boat and completely frozen. Tea or coffee were obviously not enough, so Joe Sheridan, the chef at a local bar, thought up an excellent alternative.

In 1952, American journalist Stanton Delaplane was delayed in Foynes because of bad weather. While waiting, he became acquainted with Joe and his Irish coffee: in his words, "cream as rich as an Irish brogue, coffee as strong as a friendly hand, sugar as sweet as the tongue of a rogue, and whiskey as smooth as the wit of the land."

Upon returning to San Francisco, Stan told his friend Jack Koeppler, the owner of his beloved Buena Vista Café, about the amazing recipe. The friends spent nights on end trying to recreate the cocktail, but Jack's hopes fell flatter than the cream. Even against these odds, Stan’s scientific resolve was undaunted. A trip to Shannon and back gave the friends new energy and knowledge. The experiments continued.

With the help of San Francisco’s mayor, who also happened to own a dairy, the secret of the cream was cracked: after ageing the cream for 48 hours to achieve the required consistency, the cream floated to the coffee’s surface like a swan. All the friends needed to add was the right Irish whiskey, and soon, news of the best coffee in the world took flight. 

Tribute is paid to Joe Sheridan in the new terminal building at Shannon Airport, where a commemorative plaque has been installed at The Sheridan Bar. Meanwhile, the Buena Vista says that to this day, it still sells two thousand of the famously fortifying drinks every day.

Have a look at the recipe

Source: Vladimir Zhuravlev
Illustration: Mine
Journalists: Sarah Davis, Samantha Johnson

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