Perk up St. Pat's Day with perfect Irish coffee


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Posted Online: March 12, 2013, 9:29 am
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Coffee, Irish whiskey and cream.

Taken separately they're a tasty trio. But combine them just the right way and 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, said Larry Silva, general manager of the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco — the original source of the drink in the U.S — is how you put the drink together. The cafe serves up 2,000 Irish coffees a day. Take that, green beer.

At the Buena Vista, 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.

For a touch of 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, in general, what you are seeking is a smooth whiskey that won't fight with the other flavors, said 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.

Though it seems likely people have been introducing a drop or two of whiskey into coffee for a while, the drink as a cocktail was popularized in Ireland at the Foynes port, precursor to Shannon Airport, in the 1940s when chef Joe Sheridan decided to pep up some coffee with Irish whiskey to cheer chilly travelers. The drink was much appreciated and one of the passengers is said to have asked, "Was that Brazilian coffee?" Sheridan jokingly answered, "No, that was Irish Coffee," and a tradition was born.

San Francisco newspaperman Stanton Delaplane tried the coffee while flying from Shannon Airport in 1952 and on his return got together with Jack Koeppler, then-owner of the Buena Vista, to recreate the drink. The trickiest part was getting the cream to float on top, something that was solved by whipping the cream just a bit, then pouring it carefully over the back of a spoon into the cup.

Looking to brew a little Irish cheer yourself this St. Patrick's Day? Try this classic recipe, or the chocolate-laced variation.

Irish coffee
Depending on which version of the "original" 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.
Start to finish: 5 minutes
Servings: 1
Boiling water
Hot coffee
2 sugar cubes or 1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 1/2 ounces Irish whiskey
1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream, lightly beaten (but still pourable)

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.
Recipe adapted from The Buena Vista Cafe, San Francisco

















 




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