top of page

Irish Coffee

rye whiskey, social hour, tom macy, cocktail, classic cocktail




In a warmed mug, or Irish Coffee mug if you have one, combine the whiskey, sugar and coffee and briefly stir.  Top with a float of lightly whipped cream, see below. Garnish with freshly grated cinnamon - use a cinnamon stick and microplane, or sprinkle with powdered cinnamon.


To amp up the temperature a few more degrees, use one of these methods before floating the cream.


Some classic drinks have such an outsized reputation, that it can lead to a slight disappointment the first time you try them.  But the Irish Coffee is not one of these drinks.  It is enormously satisfying,  particularly when paired with a slice of coffee cake, croissant, or, if you’ll pardon the plug, the bourbon caramel bread pudding at Clover Club

An Irish Coffee is basically a Hot Toddy with coffee instead of water that is topped with a float of lightly whipped cream.  The Irish element comes from Irish whiskey being used, which has a soft, honeyed character that pairs beautifully with coffee and cream.  Its history includes no stories relating to traditional Celtic customs, unfortunately.  


The drink was created in the United States in the mid-20th century, and became famous at the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco where they still sell gallons of them by the day.  As always, I’ll let the reliable David Wondrich fill in the details, if you’re curious.



Whiskey and Sugar

Using higher proof Irish whiskey is ideal, though any will do, and it’s best to use a darker sugar, like demerara or even brown sugar, to give the drink some caramel and molasses notes.  I recommend making a rich 2:1 simple syrup.


Floating the Cream

While bulk of an  Irish Coffee's preparation is very straightforward, the key to pulling one off is the whipping and floating of the cream, which is a bit of delicate process.  It should be thick enough rest on top of the drink without sinking in, but thin enough to pour smoothly.  It’s best if you prepare the cream yourself, I’d avoid using one of those store-bought canisters. You don’t want a conical Strabuck’s Frappuccino-like-tower on there.  Details are further down the page. 


The Cream Float - For 1 Cocktail


  • 2-3 oz heavy cream - the colder the better.

  • ¼ -½ oz simple syrup or ½ -1 tablespoon powdered sugar - optional

  • 2-3 dashes (⅛ teaspoon) vanilla extract - optional


Combine in a shaker and shake briskly, with no ice, for 6-8 seconds.  You can do this ahead of time and chill it in the refrigerator.  Colder cream sets better, and doesn’t bleed into the drink as easily. Gently pour the cream over a spoon with a wide end - like this one - until the cream covers the entire surface of the drink and is about an inch thick.  


You can also prepare the cream in a mixing bowl or something similar - particularly if you’re extrapolating the recipe to serve a group.  But for smaller rounds, a shaker really does work great. Both for whipping and pouring.  




If you make an Irish Cofee, let me see!  

Tag a photo with #socialhourcocktails on Instagram.

bottom of page