Winter weather along the west coast of Ireland can be brutal. Wind-whipped surf, icy-cold wind chills, and grey skies galore. Not to mention the omnipresence of rain and wind. Americans were initially unaware of this weather pattern when we began touring Europe back in the 1940s. And it just so happened, at least at the time, Foynes’ Shannon Airport located in County Limerick was one of the largest gateways to Europe. Here, Americans — including savvy politicians and Hollywood icons alike — were regularly received by plane and by boat (Foynes is a port town) in this region. So, like any good Irishman would, a gentleman by the name of Joe Sheridan, who happened to be the head chef at the restaurant and coffee shop at the Foynes Airbase, decided to concoct a little something special to help warm the newly arrived cold and disembarked travelers.
As you may have already guessed, what he concocted was what we know today as the Irish Coffee. From coast to coast, any bartender with a modicum of mojo can make an Irish Coffee for those either looking for a morning pick-me-up after a long night or as a dessert cocktail after a filling meal. What’s also great about the Irish Coffee is the drink’s simplicity — for you need not be a masterful mixologist to make one the right way. Just a little guidance. And it all starts with the coffee.
Your Most Important Element
Seeing how this is indeed a coffee drink at its very core, finding the right espresso blend for your Irish coffee is a must. Fortunately, Trade Coffee boasts a myriad of fresh roasted blends in this category along with many others for the taking. Our preference, naturally, came down to Groundwork’s Black Magic Espresso Blend. Why? Because this Los Angeles-based roaster partnered up with Trade to distribute roasted-to-order blends through the brand’s flagship service.
Why Medium Roast Espresso Blends?
The medium roasted espresso blend is a carefully crafted roast that imparts just enough balanced flavor without a heavy caffeine element for experimentation with coffee drinks — such as the Irish coffee. To accomplish this, roasters will heat the coffee beans between 410°F – 430°F until they reach what’s called the “second crack.” They tend to be a bit darker than their lighter counterparts and less acidic as well. All told, the medium roast espresso blend becomes the perfect canvas onto which an Irish coffee is crafted.
They use an Arabica varietal to produce this tribute to classic Italian espressos. To accomplish that, Groundworks peak-roasts their Black Magic expresso to highlight sweetness — a key element for a proper Irish coffee. What yields is a thick, rich crema with bright berry flavors and just the right amount of chocolate.
The Coffee: Groundwork Black Magic Espresso Blend
Utilizing and Arabica varietal, Los Angeles-based Groundwork positions Black Magic as an ode to the iconic Italian espresso. And while that may initially sound strange for an Irish Coffee, the highlighted sweetness this blend boasts along a thick, rich crema complemented by bright berry and chocolate notes make it the perfect match.
For more options, be sure to head on over to Trade and take their quiz to find the best medium roast espresso blend to suit your personal taste.
An Irish Necessity
Now onto the booze aspect of the journey. Clearly, you’ll want some Irish whiskey to craft the ideal cocktail in its true form. We just suggest you consider some lesser-known options out there in addition to the big players in this realm.
For our purposes, we opted for Teeling Small Batch. In addition to maturating in rum casks for some added spice, this Irish Whiskey hosts notes of creamy vanilla, subtle hints of dried herbs and cinnamon on the palate, a finish complete with smooth caramel, and an overall front-to-back creamy experience that’s frankly quite perfect for the coffee drink.
The Whiskey: Teeling Small Batch
There’s plenty of Irish whiskey options available on the market today. What we don’t often find, however, are blends that are matured in rum casks for an added spice element. That’s where Teeling Small Batch comes into play. Here, this fine option hosts notes of creamy vanilla and subtle hints of dried herbs and cinnamon on the palate while a smooth caramel finish makes this whiskey an ideal element in your Irish Coffee.
How It's Made
8 Simple Steps
Interestingly enough, American’s were so fascinated with Sheridan’s Irish coffee they attempted to recreate the beverage back here in the states, with no success. No matter how hard they tried it just wasn’t the same and would, therefore, remain a mystery for years up until Sheridan was offered a job stateside and, naturally, brought his recipe with him.
Needless to say, this isn’t just coffee + whiskey. There are a handful of steps required to get the cocktail just right. Again, this isn’t difficult. But much like baking a cake, it’s imperative to get the ratios just right and ensure proper ingredients are used. Here’s how it’s done.
What You’ll Need
- 1/3 parts Demerara and Muscovado sugar syrup (simple syrup)
- 1 part Teeling Small Batch
- 1 part whipped double cream
- 3 parts medium roasted espresso (Groundwork)
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 Vanilla pod (garnish)
- 1 cinnamon stick (garnish)
Start with a warmed glass. Some recipes recommend heating the glass with boiling water but we say warmed water is best to ensure the glass doesn’t break.
Make your simple syrup by dissolving 2 parts Demerara sugar and 1 part Muscovado sugar in boiling water. Also, keep in mind that if you plan on crafting multiple cocktails simple syrup is always beneficial to have on hand so feel free to make a larger batch if desired.
Mix your simple syrup and whiskey into the warmed glass. At this point, it could be beneficial to use a traditional bar spoon at this point as well.
Brew the coffee and stir it into the glass. Again bar spoons come in handy at this point since you want the whiskey and the coffee to evenly distribute.
Whip chilled double cream lightly until it starts to slowly stiffen but not too much since you’ll need to gently pour this into the drink.
Take a bar spoon and gently pour the whipped cream over the back of it into the coffee so it floats. Similar to how the local bartender would go about making a Black & Tan.
Lightly dust the cream head with grated nutmeg. You can also opt for cinnamon as well if needed. Basically, any holiday spice will do at this point.
Garnish with vanilla beans and a cinnamon stick. Again, other options as available as well if needed. Vanilla and cinnamon just serve to bring out the cocktails key flavors in a refined manner.
And that about does it. From here, simply find a cozy nook by the fireplace along with a good book and enjoy. Done properly, the end result will be a smooth warming cocktail that’ll go down easy and keep you balanced through the evening. Pair with some light desserts and possibly a brandy or two afterward if the time is right.
The Service: Trade Coffee Monthly Subscription Service
If you’re one of the millions of coffee drinkers out there who enjoy a daily cup of joe — or several — Trade is one service that needs to be on your radar. The brand is linked up with 52 of the nation’s best roasters featuring over 400 coffees from which to choose. The kicker here is that after answering a few simple questions in their coffee quiz, Trade Coffee will match the best options based on your personal preferences.
From there, you’ll enjoy freshly roasted-to-order coffee shipped directly to your doorstep. Trade also only deals with roasters who use ethically-sourced beans and work diligently to ensure you get the best deals possible.