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Irish Coffee: the history, the variations and the original recipe

The most famous alcohol-laced coffee in the world was born less than a century ago, but it has been able to earn itself a place of honor in the world panorama of cocktails. Sweet and palatable to taste, but with a considerable level of alcohol, the Irish Coffee has a wide range of lovers and admirers. Creating the perfect one, though, is not as easy as it may seem: as we will discover, all the elements must merge together in a harmonious and balanced way. Are you ready to find out more and discover how and where this famous drink was born?

Irish Coffee: a drink of strong contrasts

Look and deliciousness are linked more than ever on two counts, when you are talking about an Irish Coffee. The business card, on a visual level, is the cream, which must float on top of everything else and be cold enough so that it does not melt due to the heat coming from the coffee, furthermore, it must not be too whipped, robust, but not totally whipped. In fact the success of this after dinner drink depends on the balance between the hot component, the coffee, and the cold one, the cream. The coffee must be boiling, of the right strength, in order to mix well with the whiskey in terms of flavor, without the risk of melting the cream completely. When you drink a correctly made Irish Coffee, the opposition between hot and cold is quite strong, but the most surprising thing above all is the flavors: the coffee sweetened with cane/brown sugar, the whiskey and its potent alcoholic tones and the delicacy of the cream.

The history of the Irish Coffee

The history of the Irish Coffee is fascinating. Some cocktails have confused origins and the stories told about how they were invented are uncertain or even at times conflicting, whereas when we talk about Irish Coffee there are none of these major doubts, except perhaps one, relating to where it was invented. Unlike its other “colleagues”, this is not the fruit of coincidence or the imagination of some experimenter: rather its recipe was the response to the need for a hot drink, pleasing and able to warm both the body and the spirit.

The Irish Coffee was invented in Ireland in the early 1940s. There are two versions of the story: according to the first, this cocktail was invented in the city of Shannon, while according to the other, it was invented in a restaurant in Foynes, near Limerick. An interchange point for travelers, Foynes was not particularly well-known (and still isn’t) for its mild weather: the cold, the wind and the rain are at home there. The chef Joe Sheridan served the passengers who arrived in the town a hot coffee with whiskey added and a layer of cream crowning it all. When they asked him if it was a “Brazilian Coffee”, he answered that it was an “Irish Coffee”.

The spread of Irish Coffee after the 1950s

At the airport in Foynes they continued to serve Irish Coffee, which had, by that time become a local specialty, but this cocktail was also served in the nearby Shannon airport. Besides the doubts about its city of origin, it seems certain though that it was from Shannon, where international flights started landing, that Irish Coffee started spreading on a global level. It was there in fact, in 1952, that a journalist and travel writer from the San Francisco Chronicle, Stanton Delaplane, had his first, mystic encounter with this drink and was struck by it. He then decided that he would import that specialty into his own country. Delaplane was a regular client at the Cafe Buena Vista in San Francisco and with the bartenders there he experimented to recreate the sumptuous mix of coffee, cream and whiskey that he had tasted in Ireland.

French and American coffee

The most famous variations on this drink are French coffee, where in place of the whiskey they use Cognac or Calvados, and American Coffee (careful not to confuse this with caffè americano, especially at breakfast), where the Irish whiskey is replaced with bourbon. Furthermore, it would seem that the brown sugar was added later on, the first Irish Coffee contained white sugar.

The Irish Coffee Glass

If the main difficulty in preparing an Irish Coffee lies in getting the balance of the ingredients right, the second is certainly linked to the choice of the glass. To serve this drink you use a cup with a handle (mug) or a glass with a foot, which must also have a handle, both made of transparent glass. Usually the diameter does not exceed 5 cm, the height is variable and the shape can be more or less rounded.
Furthermore, before pouring the ingredients, it is fundamental to remember to warm the glass, by pouring warm water in it.

The recipe for Irish Coffee

The ingredients and equipment needed

Let’s look now at the ingredients and the doses for making the perfect Irish Coffee:

● 5 g of cane sugar
● 35 ml of espresso
● 30 g of Irish whiskey
● 60 g fresh liquid cream.
● Coffee powder for decorating

For the equipment, you will need:

● Irish coffee glass
● Small ceramic jug
● Shaker
● Bar spoon

Preparation

1. Pre-heat the glass, by pouring hot water into it and then throwing it away.
2. Put the cane sugar in the serving glass.
3. Prepare a long espresso (30 – 35 ml) in a small ceramic jug and mix it with the cane sugar directly in the glass.
4. At this point, add the Irish whiskey to the mix.
5. Shake the cream for a few seconds and ease it delicately with the help of a bar spoon, onto the surface of the mix.
6. Do not stir. Dust with a light layer of coffee powder (or nutmeg ) and serve the cocktail.

Whether it is originally from Shannon or Foynes, the Irish Coffee has certainly managed to establish itself, in little over 50 years, as one of the best-loved and most consumed hot drinks in the world and it is a real symbol of Ireland. In order to create the perfect one, you need a little dexterity and practice, to get the right balance between the ingredients and, above all, get the right consistency of the cream. If you want to have a try at preparing this cocktail, we recommend using the blend Forte per espresso, with a full-bodied character and persistent flavors.

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Il team redazionale del blog “Laboratorio dell’espresso” è composto dagli esperti di Filicori Zecchini: tutti professionisti che mettono a disposizione la loro competenza nei vari ambiti di specializzazione, dalla formazione, alla consulenza, alla creazione della migliore offerta per la vostra attività.

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