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Irish coffee is certainly one of the most beloved drinks coming from Ireland, especially on cold or windy days. The delightful blend of hot coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar, and cream has become a symbol of warmth, hospitality, and the rich cultural tapestry of Ireland. But where did this iconic drink originate, and how did it become a global hit?

At one point in time, Irish coffee was thought to originate from San Francisco, making it not an Irish coffee after all. However, that was merely a misconception and San Francisco was an important step into making the beverage as famous as it is today. But let’s start where its history started – in Foynes, a small town in County Limerick, in Ireland.

In the 1940s, Foynes was a bustling hub of transatlantic air travel, serving as a crucial refueling stop for flights traveling between Europe and North America. Legend has it that on a particularly stormy winter evening in 1943, a group of weary passengers disembarked from a Pan Am flying boat that had been forced to turn back due to severe weather. Joe Sheridan, the head chef at the restaurant and coffee shop in the Foynes terminal, wanted to offer them something to warm their spirits. He brewed a pot of strong coffee, added a generous splash of Irish whiskey to each cup, and topped them off with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. As the passengers savored the steaming, aromatic concoction, one of them asked Sheridan if he was serving Brazilian coffee. Without missing a beat, Sheridan famously quipped, “No, that’s Irish coffee.”

Irish Coffee MasterclassTo be fair, the Irish weren’t the first people to mix coffee with spirits. Other European countries like Austria, France and Germany had coffee cocktails on menus about 100 years before the Irish. But with Irish Whiskey as one of its main ingredients and made in Ireland, Irish coffee is certainly one of a kind. So how did Irish coffee come to San Francisco, then?

Word of Sheridan’s creation spread quickly, and soon Irish coffee became a favorite among travelers passing through Foynes. In 1952, the drink made its debut in the United States, thanks to Stanton Delaplane, a travel writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Delaplane had tasted Irish coffee at Foynes and was determined to recreate it at home. He convinced Jack Koeppler, the owner of the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco, to help him perfect the recipe.

The two of them encountered several challenges in their quest to replicate Sheridan’s masterpiece. They struggled to keep the cream from sinking into the coffee and experimented with various techniques before discovering that lightly whipped cream floated most effectively. Once they had mastered the method, they began serving Irish coffee at the Buena Vista Cafe, where it quickly became a bestseller.

Today, Irish coffee remains as popular as ever, enjoyed in pubs, cafes, and homes around the world. While purists insist on adhering to the original recipe, others have embraced creative variations, incorporating ingredients like flavored syrups, chocolate shavings, or even espresso for an extra kick. Despite its simplicity, crafting the perfect Irish coffee requires a delicate balance of ingredients and technique. The coffee must be strong and piping hot, the whiskey smooth and mellow, and the cream freshly whipped to achieve that signature floating layer atop the brew.

If you want to learn more fun facts about Irish coffee or if you want to learn how to make your own, take part in our Irish Coffee Masterclass, taking place every day at 1.15 pm.

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