Happy St. Patrick’s Day friends, a day early, but close enough!
For this St. Patrick’s Day I wanted to share an authentic Irish drink. I was never much of a beer drinker while I was in Ireland. Bulmer’s Hard Cider was my drink of choice. I drank hard cider way before it was cool to drink it here in the U.S. I also learned to enjoy a good Irish whiskey. Yes, I went for the hard stuff. I would enjoy Irish whiskeys on the rocks or mixed with cranberry juice.
There was also the beloved, decadent Irish coffee. I mostly drank the dessert-like drinks when my parents came to visit. We would enjoy a warming cup of hot coffee mixed with a little sugar, whiskey, and topped with thick, cold cream in our hotel bar after a long day of visiting tourist attractions.
A few years ago I was lucky enough to return to Ireland for a week. Paul’s dad, who is a professor at the college Paul and I went to, was the faculty member who accompanied the college group to Ireland that semester. Ironically it was for the same study abroad program that I had participated in several years prior. I flew over to Ireland with Paul and his brother and sister to meet up with his dad. It was really special for me to be able to visit the same neighborhood I had lived in and experience Dublin again.
While we were there we took a guided bus tour to see Glendalough, a Medieval monastery, which is a must see if you visit Ireland. Our Irish tour guide/bus driver was terrific. He filled us in on a lot of history of places and landmarks that we drove by. He had that dreamy accent and that Irish wit.
Among his many stories the one that stuck with me after several years was about when he was a child and his dad would have business meetings at home, often with people from other countries. Our tour guide explained that he and his two brothers were ages 7, 9, and 11. When their father had these business meetings the boys had one job, and it was a little tricky: to make an acceptable Irish coffee and serve it to their guests.
He went on to tell us how a true Irish coffee is made. “No froofy whipped cream,” he said. If the cream didn’t perfectly settle on top of the coffee, they would have to make a whole new one. Of course they couldn’t waste any precious whiskey so they had to down the coffees to empty out the glasses to make way for new ones. It usually took them 3 or 4 tries until it was worthy enough to serve to their guests. The entire bus was roaring with laughter from this story.
When I set out to make a traditional Irish coffee at home I knew it would take some practice. Paul was my assistant in making these for two reasons. 1) I don’t know how to make coffee and 2) I needed a second pair of hands to pour the cream while I snapped some pictures.
Let me tell you, we followed suit from the tour guide and did not waste any of the messed up Irish coffees. Down the hatch they went.
Hiccup-Oh, the hard life-hiccup- of a blogger-hiccup.
It took 3 separate times of making the Irish coffees and we made about 4 drinks each time. We went through a half of a bottle of whiskey and 3 cartons of cream before we perfected our technique.
It does take quite a bit of practice to get the cream to settle on the top, but once you have the feel for it they are really simple to make and they are a treat unlike any other. You are rewarded with a decadent, heartwarming drink that is an experience of its own. The cold, thick cream is amazing with the warm, robust coffee and whiskey mixture. The Irish definitely know how to take the chill off their bones from a cold, wet March day.
What will be your drink of choice to help you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow? I think it should be this Irish coffee. It’s okay if you screw up a few times, I give you permission. Besides, it’s St. Patrick’s Day!
Cheers! Or as they say in Ireland, Sláinte!
It is pronounced slawn-cha. Which translates to health.
See, you even learned some Gaelic by reading this post!
- 1 tablespoon real Grade A dark maple syrup
- 1 to 1½ ounces good Irish whiskey (I use Jameson)
- About ⅔ cup strong brewed coffee (I used decaf for making these in the evening)*
- ¼ cup organic RBST-free heavy whipping cream, chilled (the fresher the cream you can buy, the better)
- Place in the refrigerator a liquid measuring cup with a pour spout, and a medium-sized mixing bowl and the beaters for a hand mixer. Chill for 30 minutes prior to making the Irish coffees.
- Brew your coffee or re-heat it, but it is best when fresh.
- Heat water in a tea kettle and set aside.
- Fill the mug or glass with the hot water from the tea kettle. Allow the hot water to warm the glass for 1 minute, or until the outside is warm to the touch. Dump the water out and dry the outside of the glass if needed.
- To the mug add the maple syrup and whiskey. Pour in the hot coffee leaving about an inch of space for the cream. Use a teaspoon to gently stir the ingredients together.
- THE FOLLOWING STEPS ARE VERY IMPORTANT! DO NOT SKIP (see notes for more tips):
- Measure out ¼ cup of the chilled cream using the chilled measuring cup and transfer it to the chilled mixing bowl. Using the chilled hand mixer beaters, whip the cream on low until the cream has formed air bubbles and become light and frothy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Do not allow stiff peaks to form; we do not want to make whipped cream. Transfer the cream back to the measuring cup and set aside.
- Use the hot water from the tea kettle to pour over your teaspoon. Quickly dry off the spoon.
- Hold the warmed teaspoon over the coffee, spoon side up. You want the spoon to be very close to the surface of the coffee, but not touching.
- Use your dominant hand to very gently and slowly pour the cream onto the spoon. The cream will fill the spoon and slowly pour onto the surface of the coffee. If done correctly the cream should form a definite layer on top of the coffee. Do not stir the cream into the coffee. Serve immediately.
- Repeat steps for as many drinks as you are making.
Making Irish coffees takes practice. I recommend you make them a few times before serving them to guests. They are still good to drink if the cream mixes in; however they are incredibly delicious if the cream stays separate. Plus they look very impressive. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it right on your first try.
Traditionally brown sugar is used in Irish coffees, but I wanted to keep mine refined-sugar free. I find maple syrup to have a similar flavor to brown sugar.
We tested different techniques from different recipes and found these tips to help the best.
Be sure to heat your mugs or glasses; it really helps the coffee to stay as warm as possible. Heating the glasses up by putting water in them prevents the glass from cracking.
Make sure the bowl you whip your cream in, the beaters, and the measuring cup are very chilled. It really makes a difference keeping the cream as cold as possible so that it floats on top of the coffee, plus it tastes best cold.
When whipping the cream make sure it is really frothy. We found that the cream stayed on top of the coffee a lot easier the frothier it was. Just make sure not to whip it long enough to form stiff peaks; we don’t want whipped cream here.
Do not skip the step of heating the spoon that you use to pour the cream over. It may seem silly or counterintuitive when we want cold cream, but we found for whatever reason, it really did make a difference with helping the cream to pour on top of the coffee.
We found this video most helpful for an example of how to pour the cream.