The Best Irish Coffee
Here’s how to make the best Irish coffee recipe! Just a few ingredients make this classic whiskey and coffee drink–perfect for Christmas. This is the best Irish coffee recipe out there, truly. It warms you from the inside out and is so perfect for chilly mornings and evenings.
You don’t need to be a bartender or have fancy equipment to make this recipe! Prepare to impress all your friends and family during the holidays with the best Irish coffee recipe ever.
The Best Irish Coffee Recipe
If you’ve ever been to NYC, you may have stumbled into a bar called Dead Rabbit. Despite the somewhat gruesome name, they’re lauded as having one of the best Irish coffee recipes in the US! This recipe is modeled after that incredibly special coffee drink.
So what makes this the best Irish coffee recipe? Irish coffee is incredibly simple to make and only requires a handful of ingredients. But, the secret to a great Irish coffee is using the best ingredients.
I wanted a recipe that was simple enough to make at home, but is more intentional than just mixing sugar, coffee, whiskey, and whipped cream. Anyone can do that, but it doesn’t make a drink that is quite as special as this one.
Follow the tips in this recipe and make as directed and you will honestly never know how you went so long without this amazing Irish coffee recipe.
What is Irish Coffee?
Irish Coffee was created in the winter of 1943 by Joe Sheridan, chef at Foynes Port near Limerick, Ireland. Foynes had become one of the biggest civilian airports in Europe during World War ll and then an airbase for transatlantic flights that often carried political or Hollywood figures.
One evening, a flight had to turn back to Foynes Air base mid way through its journey. Chef Joe Sheridan, feeling empathy for the delayed, cold and weary passengers decided to whip up something special for them to drink.
Irish Coffee became a huge success and an airport specialty. In 1952, after the war, Irish Coffee was introduced to the United States.
Irish coffee is a mixture of strong brewed coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar, and lightly whipped cream. You sip the coffee through the cream and it all mixes together to make the most delightful coffee drink.
Why You’ll Love this Recipe
Easy – While there’s a little prep involved up front, this recipe is surprisingly easy to make! Once you have the elements prepped, it’s easy to make many. Perfect for a party or gathering!
Restaurant-quality – I guarantee this recipe is just as good, if not better, than any restaurant Irish coffee. This is truly the best Irish coffee recipe and you will amaze anyone you choose to enjoy it with.
Festive – Imagine sipping the best Irish coffee on a chilly Christmas Eve, or early on Christmas morning before opening presents. There’s just something so magical about that picture. This is such a festive cocktail recipe, perfect for the holidays.
How to Make the Best Irish Coffee Recipe
I love using a french press for strong brewed coffee here.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Strong coffee. For best results, I love using a french press. I always freshly grind my coffee. Choose flavorful and good coffee.
- Demerara sugar. You could use brown sugar, but demerara has a clean and rich flavor that is so, so. good. We’re making a strong syrup which calls for a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water. I bought mine on amazon here.
- Irish Whiskey. Choose your favorite! I went with the classic Jameson here for its delicate flavor. You could swap in bourbon if Irish whiskey isn’t your jam.
- Heavy cream. Always make your own whipped cream!
- Vanilla bean paste. A must in the whipped cream.
- Pure maple syrup. Adds a touch of sweetness to the whipped cream. I use the barrel-aged pure maple syrup from Trader Joe’s. Make sure you’re using pure maple syrup and not pancake syrup.
- Nutmeg. A fresh grating of nutmeg over the top truly make this the best Irish coffee recipe.
Make the syrup
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and remove from the heat. Cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 month.
Brew the coffee
Grind your coffee fairly course (if you’re using a french press). I usually only make two at a time and I love the texture of french press coffee. Pour the hot water over the beans and let it steep for 8 minutes.
Make the Whipped Cream
While the coffee steeps, make the whipped cream. The whipped cream is the best part here! The trick is to not whip it too much, otherwise it just floats on top without mixing into the coffee. Combine the heavy cream (cold), maple syrup, and vanilla bean paste in a mixing bowl and whisk until just thickened, right before soft peaks form.
Pour 1 oz (2 tablespoons) of demerara syrup in the bottom of an Irish coffee mug. Pour in the whiskey and a little bit of the coffee. Stir well. Top with more coffee, leaving about 1/2″ at the top. Gently spoon the lightly whipped cream over the top and grate a little fresh nutmeg.
Tips for Making the Best Irish Coffee
This is such a simple recipe to make, but the little extra touches are what make it special. Here are my tips for making the best Irish coffee every time:
- Use quality coffee. Use high-quality coffee beans. Good beans=good coffee and that’s a must for the best Irish coffee.
- Don’t skip the demerara. I know it’s a specialty ingredient to buy, but it makes all the difference here. Spring for the good demerara sugar and make a strong 2:1 syrup. You can buy demerara at most specialty grocery stores including Whole Foods, Central Market, etc. as well as on Amazon.
- Don’t overwhip the cream. If the whipped cream is really fluffy, it’ll just float on top and be difficult to drink. The goal is to whip the cream until it’s thick, but before soft peaks even form.
- The nutmeg is a must. The little hint of freshly grated nutmeg adds the perfect level of warm spice and makes this feel like a true holiday drink.
Methods for Brewing Coffee
Obviously coffee is a very important ingredient in making the best Irish coffee recipe! You want strong coffee (I usually use a nice Arabica bean), brewed so it has tons of flavor. Here are my favorite methods for brewing coffee:
French Press. I’m usually only making Irish coffees for two, so a French press suits me really well. It’s an inexpensive method and leaves the oils on the beans giving the coffee a rich and luxurious texture.
Pour Over/Chemex. This is also a great method if you’re only making 1-2 Irish coffees. In this method, there’s a filter, so you don’t end up with any coffee sediment.
Coffee maker. If you’re going to use a coffee maker, make sure to use a good one and to grind your beans fresh before brewing. Don’t let the coffee sit in the pot too long, as the flavors will come out tasting burnt.
Best Irish Whiskeys to Use
So, what’s the best Irish whiskey to use when making the best Irish coffee? There are a ton of options and here are my favorites:
Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey. Teeling is unique in their aging process as they age their Irish whiskey in both bourbon and rum barrels. This gives the whiskey a fruity note with notes of vanilla and toffee.
Bushmills. The triple-distilled whiskey uses single malt and lighter grains, aging for five years in bourbon and sherry casks. The aging process gives it notes of vanilla, caramel, fruit, honey, and oatmeal cookies.
The Sexton Single Malt. The whiskey ages for four years in Oloroso sherry barrels, developing flavors of dried fruits, nuts, and honeycomb. A strong, but smooth whiskey choice.
Jameson. Obviously a classic choice. It blends seamlessly into the coffee and has a light flavor.
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The Best Irish Coffee Recipe
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 1 cup demerara sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 oz demerara syrup
- 1 1/2 oz Irish whiskey
- 6 oz strong brewed coffee
- whipped cream, for topping
- freshly grated nutmeg
- Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and remove from the heat. Cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 month.
- While the coffee steeps, make the whipped cream. The whipped cream is the best part here! The trick is to not whip it too much, otherwise it just floats on top without mixing into the coffee. Combine the heavy cream (cold), maple syrup, and vanilla bean paste in a mixing bowl and whisk until just thickened, right before soft peaks form.
- Pour 1 oz (2 tablespoons) of demerara syrup in the bottom of an Irish coffee mug. Pour in the whiskey and a little bit of the coffee. Stir well. Top with more coffee, leaving about 1/2" at the top. Gently spoon the lightly whipped cream over the top and grate a little fresh nutmeg.