Tips for perfect Irish coffee

  • Thursday, March 7, 2013 9:52pm
  • Life

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, says Larry Silva, general manager of the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco — which serves 2,000 Irish coffees a day — 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.

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, what you’re seeking is a smooth whiskey that won’t fight with the other flavors, Silva says.

This isn’t the time to pull out that peaty Scotch, but don’t be afraid to use something good.

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

Hot coffee

2 sugar cubes or 1 teaspoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons milk chocolate bits (for chocolate version only, see note)

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.

Note: 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.

Makes 1 serving.

Adapted from The Buena Vista Cafe, San Francisco

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