How to make the perfect Irish coffee, according to a golf club chef
Welcome to Clubhouse Eats, where we celebrate the game’s most delectable food and drink. Hope you brought your appetites.
Many of my favorite cocktails have classic origins with a great story behind them.
Take Irish coffee.
The drink is said to have been created in 1943 by an Irishman named Joe Sheridan, the head chef at a popular restaurant at Foynes Fying Boat Airbase, in County Limerick, which, in those days, was the final port of call for seaplanes making an Atlantic crossing. As the story goes, when inclement weather forced a recently departed flight back to base, Sheridan comforted deplaning passengers by pouring Irish whiskey into their coffee. A bit of brown sugar and fresh whipped cream didn’t hurt the medley, either.
A soul-warming cocktail was born.
Today, Irish coffee is a staple at bars around the world, delicious year-round but especially welcome when you’re spending quality time outdoors. Tailgate party, anyone?
With St. Patrick’s Day fast approaching, Irish coffee has been a hot ticket item at Liberty National Golf Club, in New Jersey, where I serve as assistant general manager and executive chef. Here’s how we prepare it, along with tips for making your own version at home.
Irish Coffee Ingredients
-4 oz coffee, dark roast
-1.5 oz Irish Whiskey, such as Jameson’s
-2 tsp Demerara sugar or 3/4 oz simple syrup
-2 oz whipped heavy cream (soft peaks)
-Glass: Irish coffee glass
While coffee is brewing, whip cream in a bowl with a small whisk until peaks start to develop.
Take care not over-whip. We are not looking for whipped cream that would top an ice cream sundae. Just a nice, thick cream with some body to it.
Place the sugar or simple syrup into your coffee glass, add 4 ounces of coffee and stir to dissolve. Add 1.5 ounce of Irish whiskey, and then top with a one-inch layer of whipped cream.
A grating of nutmeg makes a nice addition on top. Irish whiskey can also be swapped out for Bailey’s Irish cream and other similar liqueurs. Feel free to experiment, but always use the classic version as your template.
Hot, hot, hot!
We want to serve this cocktail hot, but not scalding hot. We also don’t want to cool it off by pouring hot coffee into a cold vessel. Coffee is best at 185 degrees. For that reason, it’s important to temper your coffee mug or glass. To do this, boil some water in the kettle and fill you mug with it as you wait for the coffee to brew. Just before serving, pour the water out.
Some like it dark
Preferred roasting styles are a matter of personal taste. Personally, I lean toward dark roast, which stands up to the structure of a great Irish whiskey. Some Irish coffee recipes even call for espresso. Remember, we are looking for balance here, with complementing flavors and lush, rich texture. Check your brew strength. Your coffee should be strong enough to cover the whiskey without muting the spirit’s fruit and cereal tones.
Whip it good!
Well, not too good, we are not making a hot fudge sundae! You want to start by using a heavy whipping cream (38-percent fat) and, as noted about, employing just a quick whip to give it some volume. Right before it starts to create peaks is when you stop. To expedite the process, you can do what we do at Liberty National: use cold cream and put the bowl into the freezer 10 minutes prior. Those lower temperatures help the cream whip faster.
Don’t sweeten your whipped cream, or use whipped cream from a can. The Demerara sugar will add plenty of sweetens. For vegans, Silk brand and Flora make great whipping cream substitutes.
How sweet it is
My recipe calls for Demerara sugar. The flavor profile of this brown sugar brings out the caramel notes in the whiskey. The sugar hasn’t been overly processed, either, so it has clean, complex and natural taste. Most of the time I use the Demerara sugar in a “simple syrup” that I keep on hand. It’s made with a two-to-one ratio of water to sugar. However, you can use granulated sugar, brown sugar or even Stevia.
This is a wonderful cocktail. When properly prepared, it can transport you back in time, unless you have too many, in which case you may start losing track of time. Maybe not a bad idea on a chilly, winter Sunday.
You can find Shaun Lewis on Instagram: @chefshaunchristopherlewis.