Drinks Recipes

Happy hour: Irish Coffee cocktail

Each month, we explore the origins behind some of Australia’s signature drinks and learn how to recreate them at home.
An Irish Coffee cocktail served in a clear ridged glass with an emerald green background
An Irish Coffee cocktail
Kristina Soljo

The Irish Coffee’s origin story begins in the mid-1940s at Foynes Airport, outside of Limerick in western Ireland. It was a damp, chilly evening and, as a thoughtful gesture, chef-cum-bartender Joe Sheridan is said to have whipped up a whiskey and coffee concoction for a group of Americans stepping off a Pan Am flying boat. When asked by one of the passengers whether the bevy in question was a Brazilian coffee, Sheridan allegedly christened the cocktail then and there, replying: “It’s Irish coffee.”

While the traditional recipe typically involves a nip of Irish whiskey, hot coffee, sugar syrup and whipped cream, it’s a drink that can easily be dialled up several notches with a few extra tweaks. Michael Keogh, co-owner and general manager of Memphis Slim’s House of Blues in Adelaide, does exactly that by throwing in a Guinness reduction and cold-brew coffee liqueur. The addition of vanilla paste to the sugar syrup takes it a step further.

“The first winter we put our Irish Coffee on the menu, I was confident it would be well received, but unsure how much it would sell,” says Keogh. “We ended up selling out in the first weekend, and it’s become a crowd favourite ever since – warming and always accompanied by a cheeky story or two.”

How to make Memphis Slims’ House of Blues’ Irish Coffee recipe

To make Guinness reduction, pour two 440ml Guinness Draught Stout cans into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Set aside to cool.

For vanilla sugar syrup, combine 600gm brown sugar and 300ml water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, stir in one heaped teaspoon of vanilla bean paste, and leave to cool.

Pre-warm a Toddy glass with hot water. In a small saucepan, combine 50ml filter coffee, 50ml Guinness reduction, 30ml Irish whiskey, 30ml cold-brew coffee liqueur (such as Mr Black or Boston Black) and 20ml vanilla sugar syrup. Stir gently over medium heat, careful not to boil. Pour the coffee mixture into glass and top with cream and grated dark chocolate.

Whiskeys to try in an Irish Coffee

Jameson Black Barrel Irish Whiskey which works well in an Irish Coffee

Jameson Black Barrel Irish Whiskey

Maturation in double-charred Bourbon barrels intensifies the nuttiness and creamy vanilla sweetness in this easy-drinking yet complex Jameson.

$70 for 700ml

The Sexton Single Malt Irish Whiskey bottle for a Irish Coffee

The Sexton Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Notes of marzipan, honeycomb and walnuts dominate thanks to four years spent in Oloroso Sherry butts. Smooth and built for cocktails.

$75 for 700ml

Bottle of Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey to make a Irish Coffee cocktail

Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey

Teeling’s flagship blend gets finished in Central American rum casks, resulting in pronounced flavours of baking spices and dried tropical fruit.  

$75 for 700ml

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