There’s nothing quite like a warm and cozy drink to lift your spirits on a cold day, and few drinks do it better than the traditional Irish coffee.
The surprisingly simple Irish coffee cocktail recipe with just 4 ingredients has a sweet, creamy flavor and a deliciously boozy caffeinated boost!
Here we show you how to make Irish coffee at home. So grab your favorite mug and let’s get started!
What Is Irish Coffee?
Irish coffee is a coffee cocktail made with hot brewed coffee, Irish whiskey, brown sugar, and whipped cream.
Typically served in a glass mug with a handle or stem, it has a creamy layer of whipped cream sitting atop the sweet coffee and whiskey mixture.
It’s a simple recipe with complex and delicious flavors, and it’s the perfect way to indulge in some comfort on a chilly morning, afternoon or evening!
Coffee cocktail recipes containing coffee and spirits have existed for centuries.
But the original Irish coffee (as we know it today) is commonly credited to a bartender named Joe Sheridan at the Foynes Airbase in Ireland in the early 20th century.
The story goes that the drink was initially created to steady and warm up passengers who had to disembark from their airplanes due to bad weather conditions.
But it soon became a favorite among locals and visitors alike and the recipe was popularized in the United States in the 1950s by a travel writer named Stanton Delaplane.
Stan had tasted the drink at the airport and helped to bring it to the attention of coffee drinkers in the US through his friend who owned the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco.
The rest they say is history, and Irish coffee recipes continue to be one of the most popular alcoholic coffee drinks recipes to make year round and are a much loved holiday coffee drink.
Homemade Irish Coffee Ingredients
So what’s in an Irish coffee? Making Irish Coffee at home could not be easier, with just 4 ingredients needed:
- Brewed coffee
- Irish Whiskey
- Brown soft sugar
- Whipping cream
Best Coffee For Irish Coffee
You can use any type of coffee maker to brew your coffee – French press, drip, moka pot, Nespresso, aeropress, even espresso.
It really doesn’t matter so just go with whatever machine you have at home.
My preference is to use medium-dark or dark roast coffee beans for brewing coffee for this classic Irish coffee recipe.
But there’s no need to use your premium single origin coffee beans for this recipe – keep them for your regular brew and use a Central or South American blend instead.
Best Whiskey For Irish Coffee
The best whiskey for Irish Coffee is Irish Whiskey, of course!
You don’t need to use premium Irish whiskey (keep that for serving straight or on ice).
Good Irish Whiskey brand choices include Jamesons, Tullamore or Bushmills.
Soft brown sugar is the best type of sugar to use to make Irish Coffee at home.
The reason is that it dissolves easily and has a rich caramel flavor.
You can use granulated sugar if you don’t have brown sugar on hand, but you should dissolve it in a 1/2 teaspoon of boiling water before using.
The secret to achieving the classic layered cream look of an authentic Irish Coffee is to use fresh whipping cream.
Don’t use canned whipped cream or light whipping cream as you won’t achieve the look and taste you are looking for.
How To Make Irish Coffee At Home
Let’s walk through how to make an Irish coffee step by step.
1. Warm Your Glass
One of the secrets to making a good Irish coffee is to pre-warm your glass.
Fill your glass with just-boiled water and leave it to warm up while you prepare your other ingredients.
Warming the glass helps keep your drink warm for longer.
2. Prepare Your Ingredients
Next you need to prep your ingredients.
So brew your coffee, measure your whiskey and grab your sugar and cream.
3. Combine Your Ingredients
When you are ready to prepare your drink, tip the hot water out of your glass.
Then pour your hot coffee, whiskey and brown sugar into the warmed glass.
Use a spoon to stir until the sugar is dissolved.
4. Whisk The Cream
Next you need to prepare the whipping cream. You can do this with a whisk or in a jar.
- If using a whisk, simply place the cold cream in a bowl and whisk until thickened, but still with a pouring consistency.
- With a jar, pour the cream into a jar, seal the lid and shake until thickened.
Be careful not to overwhip the cream. It should still have a pouring consistency to achieve that smooth thick creamy layer.
Once the cream is thickened, pour it through a sieve into a small jug or cup.
The sieve is an optional step but it removes the air bubbles from the cream for a smooth and luxurious whipped cream.
5. Float The Cream On Top
Finally you want to gently pour your cream into your glass over the top of the coffee.
There are two secrets to achieving the classic layered look of the Irish whiskey coffee:
- Pour the cream slowly over a teaspoon into your glass.
- Use cold whipped cream.
If your cream collapses into the coffee it most likely needs to be thicker – so whip for longer for a thicker consistency.
Finally, garnish your coffee drink with chocolate shavings, cinnamon or nutmeg if desired.
These may not be traditional ingredients, but certainly add to the experience!
And finally, don’t stir your drink!
Sip your coffee and whiskey through the creamy layer and enjoy.
Tips For Making Irish Coffee At Home
- Use Irish Whiskey. You can use Scotch Whiskey or Bourbon but know that they will change the taste of your drink.
- Fresh heavy whipping cream is best. Avoid canned (pressurized) whipped cream at all costs.
- Pour the cream over a teaspoon held low over your glass to help prevent the cream mixing with the coffee.
- Hot coffee and cold cream will help you achieve the classic layered coffee drink.
Irish Coffee Recipe FAQs
Irish coffee should be served in a glass with a stem or handle. Sip the hot sweet coffee and whiskey through the layer of whipped cream.
No, you should not stir an Irish coffee. You should serve as a layered coffee drink and sip the coffee through the cream on top.
Use cold cream that has been whipped to a thick pouring consistency.
Hold a teaspoon over the top of the glass close to the coffee and gently pour the whipped cream over the teaspoon into the glass.
To make a traditional Irish coffee you cannot use milk or creamer – you need to use whipping cream to achieve the creamy layer atop the drink.
More Alcoholic Coffee Drinks Recipes
If you loved this hot Irish coffee recipe, here are some more great alcoholic coffee drinks to try at home.
- Frangelico Espresso Martini
- White Russian
- Siciliano coffee cocktail
- 20+ Alcoholic Coffee Drinks Recipes
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- 2 teaspoons soft brown sugar (note 1)
- 4 ounces (120 ml) freshly brewed hot coffee (note 2)
- 1 oz (30 ml) Irish Whiskey
- 1 oz (30 ml) whipping cream
- Chocolate shavings (optional)
- Warm your glass by pouring hot water into the glass while preparing other ingredients (note 5)
- When ready, tip the water out of the glass.
- Add the hot brewed coffee, whiskey and sugar to the glass.
- Stir gently until the sugar has dissolved.
- Pour the cream into a jar with a lid. Shake for 20-30 seconds until slightly thickened (note 6).
- (Optional) Pour cream through a strainer into a small jug (note 5)
- Hold a teaspoon over your glass and gently pour the thickened cream over the spoon into your glass (note 7).
- Sprinkle with chocolate shavings (if using).
- DO NOT STIR! Sip and enjoy.
- You can use pour over, moka pot, aeropress, French press or even espresso coffee. Medium-dark or dark roast coffee beans are best.
- Soft brown sugar dissolves more easily than white or raw sugar. If using white or raw sugar, dissolve first with 1/2 teaspoon of boiling water before adding to the coffee.
- Best sized glass is 6-8 oz. This ensures the coffee fills most of the glass and it makes it easier to get the cream to float on top.
- Use a glass with a stem or handle as the sides of the glass will get hot and hard to hold.
- Warming the glass with boiling water beforehand helps keep the drink warm for longer.
- Don't overwhip the cream. It should still have a pouring consistency once thickened.
- Straining the cream removes bubbles from the cream for a smoother finish, but is not essential.
- Pouring the cream onto a teaspoon held over the glass helps float the cream on top of the coffee for the layered look.
- If making several coffee cocktails at once, shake the cream in a cocktail shaker.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 266Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 21mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 0gSugar: 12gProtein: 2g
Please note that nutrition information is a computer generated estimate and should not be interpreted as a dietitian's advice. Values can vary greatly among brands, amounts and ingredients used.