A wee bit early, you say? Nae, says I.
Although St. Patrick’s Day is usually observed on March 17, this year — with Easter coming so early — a bit of liturgical arcana has moved mountains. Because Catholic rules prohibit the celebration of saint’s feasts during Holy Week, the Church has actually moved St. Patrick’s Day to March 14. (For those of you keeping score at home, the last time this ecclesiastic clash occurred was 1940, and the next time will be 2160… so we’ve got a few years to plan.)
Most bishops are none too happy about drunken revelry during the holiest week of the year, and the clever ones are supporting the official shift by offering dispensation to their flocks, absolving them of the sin of carousing on a Lenten Friday, which is traditionally a day of abstinence. As you might expect, this once-in-most-lifetimes rescheduling has plenty of civic celebration-mavens in a tizzy — apparently, not everyone got the memo, and most cities (and nearly every bartender I’ve asked) will still be trotting out barrels of green beer on Monday.
But regardless of when you’re celebrating, there’s got to be a better glass to raise than watery, shamrock-colored beer. Please, I implore you: Grab yourself a snoot of Jameson (or Bushmills, if you’re of a Protestant sort), a pint of Guinness, a Black Velvet, or something else — anything else! — that reminds you of the Land of Saints and Scholars.
One of the best of your options, Irish Coffee was brought to America in the early 1950s by the then-owner of San Francisco’s Buena Vista Cafe, Jack Koeppler. Haunted by the drink he’d enjoyed at Shannon Airport before a seaplane flight home from the Emerald Isle, Koeppler and his friend Stanton Delaplane, a travel writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, tinkered and experimented for months to replicate the formula. Koeppler even made a return trip to Ireland — all in the name of “research”, of course — and brought back the official recipe from Joe Sheridan, the bartender who (by most accounts) invented the drink. Even today, enjoying an Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista remains one of the few legitimate reasons for a trip to Fisherman’s Wharf, an otherwise benighted stretch of The City best left to the socks-and-sandals set.
The cafe caused a tempest in a coffee cup last year when word leaked that the recipe had — gasp! — been altered. Although the current owner claims that cost was not a factor, the fact of the matter is that the Buena Vista abandoned their private-label whiskey in favor of off-the-shelf Tullamore Dew. The subtle change is lost on most customers, and the ol’ BV still turns out more than 2,000 Irish Coffees a day to windswept tourists as they toddle off the cable cars at the end of the line. I assure you that, Tullamore Dew or no, it tastes a heck of a lot better than green beer.
4oz fresh, hot coffee
2oz Irish whiskey
Pour hot water into a footed coffee glass to bring it to temperature. Meanwhile, whip the cream lightly, just enough so that it will be able to float atop the drink, but not until peaks form. Pour the hot water out of the glass, and add two sugar cubes. Fill the glass about 3/4 full with hot coffee, and stir to dissolve the sugar cubes. Add the shot of whiskey, and top with the lightly whipped cream, pouring over a spoon to keep the layers distinct.