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How to Make the Best Classic Irish Coffee Recipe

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Last Updated on July 18, 2024 by Leah Hall

An original Irish Coffee is always a treat. A warm coffee cocktail, this Irish whiskey based sip is topped with whipped cream and sweetened with brown sugar. Make this simple sip for chilly nights!


An original Irish Coffee has a fun history, is a tasty sip, and is easy to make! We have a non-traditional Irish Coffee recipe already here on the site, a Toasted Cream Irish Coffee or a Frozen Irish Coffee! And, trust us, you will want to make that, too. But, if you want a true Irish coffee, we have the recipe below!


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Brown Irish Coffee Cocktail in glass mug with white cream layer on top

Irish coffee is a cocktail perfect for after dinner, as well as a lovely morning treat on holidays or during brunch. Irish coffees are simple to make. You don’t need any special equipment to mix these up, which makes them great for cocktails at home, especially because they take just a couple minutes to make! A zhuzh-ed up coffee drink is perfect for a chilly evening or for St Patrick’s Day! Make sure to check out more of our St Patrick’s Day Cocktails!


A cup of plain coffee, or just regular black coffee is a traditional after dinner drink. But, we think this perfect Irish Coffee recipe with its’ shot of Irish whiskey and cream float is the best for cold winter nights!

Brown Irish Coffee Cocktail in glass mug with white cream layer on top

History of the Irish Coffee

There are different variations of coffee cocktails that come before the Irish coffee by around a century.


Drinks called the Pharisäer and the Fiaker were served in Vienna coffeehouses. Both of these coffee cocktails were topped with whipped cream. These were popular in the mid 19th Century, and more variations came after 1900.

white whipped cream being poured on top of coffee in glass mug

Several places claim to have developed the modern Irish Coffee in or around the 1950s. One version is credited to Joe Sheridan, head chef at a restaurant and coffee shop in Foynes Airport flying boat terminal. This terminal is about 15 kilometers away from present day Shannon Airport in County Clare, Ireland.   It is said in the early 1940’s he added whiskey to the coffee of some stranded passengers that had been rerouted back to the terminal because of some bad weather. They were said to be grateful for the warming drink.


One passenger asked, “Is this Brazilian coffee?” “No,” Sheridan replied, “it’s Irish coffee.” The name stuck, became the classic hot cocktail enjoyed on St. Patrick’s Day and elsewhere.

Whiskey being poured in glass mug with a jigger

A man by the name of Stanton Delaplane, the San Francisco Chronicle travel writer, said that he brought Irish coffee to the United States after drinking it at Shannon Airport. He also said that he worked with the Buena Vista Cafe owner, Jack Koeppler in San Francisco to start serving it in 1952. Sheridan then came from Ireland to work at the Buena Vista Cafe.

Brown Irish Coffee Cocktail in glass mug with white cream layer on top

Irish Coffee Ingredients

Classic Irish coffee is made with just four ingredients – coffee, Irish whiskey, brown sugar and cream. The best Irish coffee is served in a heat proof glass mug topped with thick cream.

  • Coffee – Fresh, hot brewed coffee is called for in this cocktail. A dark roast is the best choice for the most coffee flavor.
  • Irish Whiskey – being that this recipe originates in Ireland, Irish whiskey is the classic choice. Jameson whiskey or Bushmills are the usual suspects!
  • Brown Sugar – this gives a bit of molasses sweetness and caramel note to the recipe.
  • Whipped Cream – soft whipped heavy cream makes for great whipped cream. Not stiff peaks, but soft peaks tops this original Irish Coffee for the creamy touch this drink needs. Real whipped cream is the best choice for this recipe!

Brown Irish Coffee Cocktail in glass mug with white cream layer on top

How to Make an Original Irish Coffee

  • Pour the Irish whiskey and add at least one level teaspoon of brown sugar into a glass mug. Pour in hot coffee (leave room for cream) and stir in until sugar is dissolved.
  • Beat heavy cream until soft peaks form. Pour the cream over the back of a spoon just above the surface of the coffee until the entire layer is floating on the top of the coffee.
  • Enjoy while hot! And served with some traditional Irish desserts!

Whipped Cream tip: When making the whipped cream, look for the cream to have soft peaks while still being able to be poured. The best way to tell if your cream is ready: put a spoon into the middle of your cream, pull it out, and stick it spoon end up. The peak at the tip of the spoon should curl over on itself softly. If there is no peak, it’s not ready. If the peak stays pointing straight up, you’ve gone too far and made super whipped cream. Aim for the soft peaks in this original Irish coffee.

Brown Irish Coffee Cocktail in glass mug with white cream layer on top

Coffee tips: dark brewed coffee is the best choice, as this will add the most flavor. But, some coffee with flavor adds interesting notes as well, such as hazelnut, vanilla or peppermint. Feel free to experiment with the flavors you like. Out of a regular drip coffee pot is fine, we prefer a pour over method at home, or in a coffee press with hot water. Entirely your choice, but that’s how we drink coffee everyday, so not a switch up for us. Try our Nutty Irishman, too!


What Whiskey is best for an Original Irish Coffee?

The best Irish whiskey is the whiskey you have, but Jameson and Bushmills whiskey are the usual popular choices for an original Irish Coffee. They are both classic Irish Whiskey brands and make for a tasty sip in this authentic Irish Coffee. Other great choices are Teeling, or Tullamore D.E.W. Make sure to make our Irish Whiskey Cocktail, or St Patrick’s Day Cocktails, too!

Brown Irish Coffee Cocktail in glass mug with white cream layer on top

Tips & Tricks
  • Garnish – grate over the top some nutmeg, or ground cinnamon. If you want really fancy, you could try chocolate shavings with a microplane.
  • Decaf Coffee – Perfect as an after dinner drink this way (unless you like late caffeine!) But still delivers a tasty and sweet sip!
  • Cream Substitute – change out the heavy cream with some Irish Cream liqueur and whip it with a little heavy cream to top it. Or, add in the Irish Cream with the Irish whiskey. Make sure to check out our 27 Irish Cream Cocktail recipes, too!
  • Sweeteners – other options if you don’t want to use brown sugar. Some other choices could be coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey, simple syrup, demerara sugar, regular granulated white sugar or sugar cubes. Each will bring their own flavor to the drink!
  • Cold –  Use cold brew coffee or iced coffee instead of hot. The whipped cream won’t mix in as well, so we suggest a dash of half and half or heavy cream instead.
  • Whipped Cream Hack – use a small frother and whip that cream super quickly. Makes for some great soft peaks fast! If you are making it for a group, it may be easier to use a stand mixer if you are making more than a cup!
  • Whipped Cream Alternative – if you don’t have heavy cream (or double cream as it’s known in the UK), you could use Cool Whip. But, this would be an entirely North American/United States thing. And may add too much sweetness to the drink, so use sparingly.
  • Non-Alcoholic – Leave out the whiskey and it’s a tasty coffee drink!
  • Mug Size – Use a stemmed mug no larger than eight ounces. If you use an 8-ounce glass, you can easily add in that 1.50 ounce of Irish whiskey, plus the cream. Don’t use a too large mug either, this makes for too much coffee and dilutes the drink too much. Keep that in mind. These original Irish Coffee mugs are perfect!
  • Other Liqueurs – if you want some extra flavors as a twist on this perfect recipe, do so! Add some Irish Cream like we said above, or some peppermint schnapps, creme de cocao, Kahlua, or more.

Brown Irish Coffee Cocktail in glass mug with white cream layer on top

Try an Irish Old Fashioned, too! Cheers!


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Like this recipe? Try these below, too!

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Brown Irish Coffee Cocktail in glass mug with white cream layer on top
Yield: 1

Original Irish Coffee

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

An original Irish Coffee is full of so much flavor, so fun and easy to make! Combine coffee with brown sugar, Irish whiskey and all topped with whipped cream!


  • 1.50 ounce Irish whiskey
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 4-6 ounces hot coffee
  • 1 ounce heavy cream, whipped


  1. If you want a hot mug, add boiling water to a glass mug before prepping this cocktail.
  2. Dump our water if needed. Pour in whiskey, brown sugar and coffee.
  3. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Top with lightly whipped heavy cream over the back of a spoon over the surface of the coffee until mug is full.
  4. Add a garnish like grated nutmeg, cinnamon or chocolate shavings if desired.
  5. Cheers!

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

8 ounces

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 217Total Fat: 10.5gSaturated Fat: 6.5gCholesterol: 39mgSodium: 14mgCarbohydrates: 3.8gSugar: 3gProtein: .7g

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