DOTW: Irish Coffee

Posted by Anita on 03.14.08 7:07 AM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

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.

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**

Irish Coffee
4oz fresh, hot coffee
2oz Irish whiskey
whipping cream
sugar cubes

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.

bar culture, coffee & tea, Drink of the Week, drinks, holidays & occasions



Comment by Eddie

Ah, but the best Irish coffee I’ve ever had is at the Alembic, on Haight. Blue Bottle coffee, made fresh in a french press, cream whipped by hand (they use a spring in a cocktail shaker–damndest thing), and good irish whiskey.

Mmmm. Maybe that’s what we’ll do this weekend…

Posted on 03.14.08 at 8:38AM

Comment by Lauren

One of my favorite things to do is have an irish coffee at Buena Vista. I love sitting at the bar and chatting with the bartenders and watch them crank out millions of them!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Posted on 03.14.08 at 10:52AM

Comment by Robin

Haha! I didn’t know the celebration date was changed! I think those heads of church just wanted to get drunk on a Friday!

I haven’t had Irish coffee in ages. I think nows the time!

Posted on 03.14.08 at 12:50PM

Comment by cookiecrumb

Whoops! I thought the date had been changed to March 15 for this year.
I’ve got other plans for today. It’s Pi Day.

Posted on 03.14.08 at 1:16PM

Comment by Anita

Eddie: Mmm! I made one at home with Peet’s and Jameson and Straus cream… it was divine. But drinks -always- taste better when someone else makes them, especially someplace so gezellig as Alembic.

Lauren: Next time you’re in town, we’ll meet you there. :)

Robin: Those wacky church-guys. You can totally tell by the giant swizzle-sticks they carry and the pointy party hats!

Cookie: It’s the 15th in some dioceses and the 14th in others. Just in case, you know, you weren’t confused enough :D

Posted on 03.14.08 at 1:28PM

Comment by Simply...Gluten-free

Green beer – yuk! Irish coffee – YUM! There’s a job I would love, researching to find the perfect Irish coffee recipe!

Posted on 03.14.08 at 2:27PM

Comment by Rose

Oops! Does that mean my honey and I should have celebrated our anniversary yesterday? :) I’ve never been a fan of warm whiskey, but yours looks so good we may have to give it a try (on the 17th!)

Posted on 03.15.08 at 5:54PM

Comment by moosie

i’m from D.C. but had the joy of going to the Buena Vista Cafe on New Years Day and got absolutely schnockered on those Irish Coffees…they were fantastic!

Posted on 03.16.08 at 8:01AM

Comment by Joan

Thank you, once again, for another great recipe. I used it with great success this evening with our annual St. Pat’s day dinner. (and gave kudos to you and your blog when I wrote about our dinner.)

Posted on 03.16.08 at 10:04PM

Comment by Anita

Carol: Let me know if you find anyone who’s hiring, especially if the benefits include a chauffeur and a generous nap policty.

Rose: Hm, I don’t know if the Church’s ability to move special dates goes quite -that- far. :D

Moosie: Yep the BV is a favorite of visitors from all over. We’re pretty lucky here, in that most of the things that SF is famous for (clam chowder, cioppino, sourdough bread) are pretty good even when they’re mass-produced for the tourists.

Joan: Wow, thanks! Glad we could provide the nightcap for what sounds like a delicious feast.

Posted on 03.17.08 at 7:40AM

Pingback by Urban Hennery » Blog Archive » Dark Days 2008: Recap #6

[...] After spending a few days out of town enjoying the San Juan Islands and local meals there, Joan celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in style. With Irish blood, her holiday meal pulled from family traditions as well as new sources. The brisket was even better than usual and the whole meal was topped off with Anita’s Irish Coffee recipe. [...]

Posted on 03.25.08 at 10:56PM

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