Coffee, Irish whiskey and cream.
Taken separately they’re a tasty trio. But combine them just the right way in just the right proportions and they get even better, transforming into a drink that can perk up the grayest day.
We’re talking Irish coffee, of course, a drink that’s especially popular around St. Patrick’s Day, but good any time you want to add some zing to your caffeine.
The secret, says Larry Silva, general manager of the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco, is how you put the drink together.
At the Buena Vista – the original source of the drink in the U.S. – Irish coffee starts with a stemmed, 6-ounce glass that’s been preheated with hot water. And both of those elements are critical. A bigger or smaller glass would throw off the coffee-booze balance. A cold glass results in a tepid cocktail. There was a bit of a hitch a few years back when Libbey Glass stopped making the type the Buena Vista uses. Silva had to scramble to find another source but, happily, Libbey has reinstated the product.
For a little sweetness, the Buena Vista recipe adds two cubes of sugar, though other recipes call for brown sugar. The cream, meanwhile, should be fresh and just slightly whipped – nothing from an aerosol can.
As for the whiskey, the Buena Vista is currently using Tullamore Dew. In general, what you are seeking is a smooth whiskey that won’t fight with the other flavors, says Silva. This isn’t the time to pull out that peaty Scotch. But don’t be afraid to use something good.
“Using a premium spirit elevates any cocktail,” said John Concannon, a California vintner who has teamed with Ireland’s Cooley Distillery to develop Concannon Irish Whiskey, which also makes a good Irish coffee.
Looking to brew a little Irish cheer yourself this St. Patrick’s Day? Try this classic recipe, or the chocolate-laced variation.
IRISH COFFEE Boiling water
2 sugar cubes or 1 teaspoon brown sugar
11/2 ounces Irish whiskey
1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream, lightly beaten (but still pourable)
Note: Depending on which version of Irish coffee you subscribe to, it is sweetened with either 2 sugar cubes or 1 teaspoon brown sugar. For a rich and chocolaty take on Irish coffee, stir 2 tablespoons of milk chocolate bits into the coffee at the same time as the sugar. Once the chocolate bits have melted, proceed with the recipe.
Fill a large coffee cup with boiling water to preheat it. Let it stand for about 1 minute, then empty the glass. Fill the glass three-quarters full with hot coffee. Add the sugar, then stir until dissolved. Stir in the whiskey.
Top the coffee-whiskey blend with the lightly whipped cream. To do this, hold an overturned spoon over the coffee, then slowly pour the cream over it. The goal is for the cream to float on top of the coffee; do not mix it in. Part of the Irish coffee experience is drinking the hot coffee through a layer of cool cream.Start to finish: 5 minutes Servings: 1 Recipe adapted from The Buena Vista Cafe, San Francisco