How To Make Irish Coffee (Cafe Irlandes)

To make a fine Irish Coffee drink you will need piping hot coffee, sugar and Irish whiskey. Stir them together, combine in a toddy glass, and top it with thick cream that has not been whipped. That is the original recipe. You are supposed to sip the coffee beverage through the thick cream.

Of course many people enjoy their Irish Coffee with a topping of whipped cream, which is fine as well. Don’t let the connoisseurs try to tell you how to enjoy your coffee.

Fun Fact: In Irish the beverage is known as Caife Gaelach.

Irish Coffee Guide
Proper Irish Coffee – Photo Emily Westbrooks @ CNTraveller

International Bartenders Association Definition

According to the International Bartenders Association (IBA), an Irish Coffee Cocktail is:

  • 4 cl (2 parts) Irish whiskey (40 mL, 1.3 ounces)
  • 8 cl (4 parts) hot coffee (80 mL, 2.6 ounces)
  • 3 cl (1½ parts) fresh cream (30 mL, 1 ounce)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar

It’s colloquially simply referred to as an “Irish Coffee”, dropping the “cocktail”.

The Early Beginnings of the Irish Coffee

Some say the first Irish coffee came about through the antics of one Joseph Sheridan who served as head chef at Foynes in County Limerick. Sheridan was originally from Castlederg in County Tyrone. The port at Foynes was the predecessor to the Shannon International Airport on the western part of Ireland.

As the story goes, the name and recipe for Irish coffee were created when some Americans got off a Pan Am flying boat in Foynes in the 1940s. It was a cold and dreary evening and the Sheridan put some whiskey in the coffee to provide the flying boat passengers with extra warmth, and they in turn asked if it was Brazilian coffee. Sheridan responded that it was “Irish coffee.”

In the 1950s Irish coffee was served at the Buena Vista cafe in San Francisco after being advocated by Stanton Delaplane. They worked to recreate the traditional Irish method of floating the cream atop the coffee and determined cream which had aged two days floated best. Delaplane went on to extol the virtues of the drink in his travel column and it gained a wider popularity.

There are variations on the Irish coffee theme such as the Cafe Irlandes (Irish Coffee) served in Spain with the whiskey layer on the bottom and the coffee in a separate layer in the middle and the cream on top. There is special equipment available to make Cafe Irlandes.

Irish Coffee Cocktail Recipe

This Irish Coffee is a long-time champ when it comes to alcoholic coffee recipes. Coffee, cream and sugar pair naturally, but adding the whiskey is a touch of magic. Discover the history behind this infamous drink and how to customize it to your tastes.

Course Dessert, Drinks
Cuisine Irish
Keyword irish coffee
Prep Time 4 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 person
Calories 181 kcal
Author EspressoCoffeeGuide


  • 1 oz Whiskey irish
  • 2 oz Coffee fresh brewed
  • 1 oz Cream fresh
  • 1 tsp Brown Sugar

How to Make

  1. Warm up tall glass (preferably a toddy glass) using warm water

  2. Add coffee

  3. Add brown sugar (required for buoyancy)

  4. Add the whiskey and blend

  5. Top with cream, using a spoon to maintain separation while pouring

Recipe Notes

Use a "toddy" glass for an Irish Coffee.

Don't forget to use the sugar even if you don't usually add sugar to your coffee. In this case it is necessary as it provides the buoyancy for the cream to float atop the Irish coffee, this is the signature of the Irish coffee.

Either white sugar or brown sugar may be used depending upon your personal preference.

Nutrition Facts
Irish Coffee Cocktail Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 181 Calories from Fat 90
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 10g 15%
Saturated Fat 6g 30%
Cholesterol 38mg 13%
Sodium 12mg 1%
Total Carbohydrates 3g 1%
Sugars 3g
Vitamin A 8.3%
Calcium 1.8%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Submit Your Irish Coffee Recipe Here!

For the perfect Irish coffee you will of course have to first seek out the perfect premium gourmet coffee and make sure it has been roasting properly.

Then you must seek out the perfect whiskey and the perfect cream. Even the sugar can be a thing secured by a connoisseur to best fit the renowned Irish coffee beverage – some people prefer brown rather than white sugar.

Depending upon your personal tastes you may then vary the proportions ever so slightly to hone in on what is your own perfect Irish Coffee and perfect Irish Coffee recipe.

Choosing the Glass When You Make an Irish Coffee

The mug or glass you choose for you Irish Coffee is an important part of your own personal Irish coffee recipe because it adds the pomp and ceremony and tradition of the drink. Tall, narrower glass (as opposed to mugs) are preferred, due to the higher ratio of coffee to cream, giving you more coffee to sip before finishing off with the cream.

What is considered to be the classic glass for an Irish coffee is a six-ounce stemmed glass known as a “toddy”. Some people like to use an eight-ounce mug with a handle which is more practical but less classic.

Starting the Process How to Make Irish Coffee

First warm up the glass – this is important not only to prevent premature cooling of the coffee, but also to prevent the glass from shattering due to thermal shock. Next fill it about two-thirds full with piping hot coffee. Next add two teaspoons of sugar or even three if its a larger glass. Now stir it in thoroughly so that it properly dissolves.

Now you are ready to add one ounce of whiskey or more if it is a larger glass. Finally, top of the drink with thick cream, using a spoon when pouring to prevent mixing.

Slow It Down on that Irish Coffee Recipe – One More Time

To warm the glass up run it under some very hot water. This is one of the most important things about how to make Irish coffee because it allows the beverage to hold its layers properly and doesn’t draw the heat out of the ingredients. By the way don’t run fine glass under water that is too hot, just use warm water.

When you fill the glass two-thirds full of coffee you may just want to use French Press coffee because it has all of the fine aromatic oils that don’t pass through a filter paper such as is used by an automatic coffee machine making a regular drip-brew coffee.

Cream – The Essential Layer of the Irish Coffee

A proper Irish Coffee is encapsulated in the cream atop the drink. Practice this skill until you get it just right. You may even search out a higher quality cream.

As you pour the cream over the back of a spoon suspended just above the top surface of the beverage let it gently slide atop the coffee until it forms a layer about one-half inch thick. Take your time with this step, pouring too fast can result in the layers mixing improperly – they should be distinct and separate.

How To Drink Your Irish Coffee Properly

Now as you consume the Irish coffee, if you do it right, you will actually be drinking the coffee through the layer of cream which will stay intact on top.

Some people like to thicken up the cream by whipping just very lightly with a whisk. In England you can buy what is known as “double cream” that is thicker than America’s “heavy cream” and is sufficient for an Irish coffee recipe without the need for whisking.

What Not To Do When Making Your Irish Coffee Recipe

Don’t use whipped cream and don’t use sweetened cream. If you do then it is not an Irish coffee, just a variation of one.

Okay, we will let you use whipped cream if you must, perhaps that is all you have on hand and it captures at least some of the essence of an Irish coffee if you get the rest of it right.

Though what is most important is that you learn from your mistakes and begin to seek out the proper ingredients for an Irish Coffee so next time you are prepared!

Alcohol-Free Irish Coffee

A mock Irish Coffee can be made using Irish Cream flavoring syrup in lieu of whiskey, recreating the infamous drink for those who are designated drivers or need to avoid alcohol. Companies such as Torani and Monin offer compelling tasting flavors that can be enjoyed at any time of day, with some people swearing it tastes identical.

Sugar-free variations also exist, sweetening the drink without adding sugars for those who want a paleo or sugar-free Irish Coffee.

When Is A Good Time to Serve Irish Coffee

Anytime you want to warm up, perhaps after being out in the snow on a ski adventure or snowboarding. Now gather around the fireplace and sip the perfect Irish Coffee. It’s also very nice with desserts, or just with some home made cookies or a nice fresh-baked loaf of Irish bread.

You can garnish the top of the drink if you would like, with some chocolate or cinnamon or nutmeg, though these are not part of the traditional Irish coffee recipe. Who is to say what can or cannot be done as you perfect your own personal Irish coffee recipe.

Some people even put a dash of Creme de Menthe on top, or perhaps Bailey’s Irish Cream. I know it is very unorthodox, but I’m just saying, some people do it! Remember that the true Irish tradition involves good times, laughter and merriment, so enjoy!

And so there is your Irish Coffee Recipe and tips on how to make the perfect Irish Coffee. Impress your friends, especially your Irish friends!

Here’s Another Great Irish Coffee Recipe

First pour the strong freshly-brewed black coffee into the mug. Then slowly stir in sugar (one level teaspoon) and whiskey to taste. Make sure the sugar is fully dissolved into the beverage. It’s the sugar that helps the cream float properly on top of the Irish coffee.

Next pour the thick cream very slowly over the back of a spoon first holding it just above the surface and then rising it up a bit very gradually. If done properly then the layer of cream will float gracefully on top of the Irish coffee.

Irish Coffee – A Word of Warning

However just a word of warning. Whenever mixing a stimulant like coffee with an intoxicant like alcohol just one drink is enough.

Don’t get carried away because the coffee’s vibrant glow might mask the fact that you have had too much and you will over-imbibe, and no one wants that!

Now go out there and spread the world about the Irish Coffee recipe and all of the things you learned about how to make Irish Coffee.

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