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The history of Irish coffee begins one stormy night in Ireland


Last updated 3/19/2018 at 11:25am

FALLBROOK – Irish coffee is a drink beloved the world over, and one that becomes even more popular on St. Patrick's Day. The origin of this drink, coffee with a splash of whiskey and Irish cream liqueur, has been debated for quite some time.

According to a 2016 story on, after publishing a story claiming the drink was first served in the Shannon Airport, the website received a letter from a representative from the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum that said the story was inaccurate. The museum said in the letter that the Irish coffee so many people love today was actually first served at the flying-boat terminal at Foynes, which was roughly 35 miles from the Shannon Airport, and related the story.

Joe Sheridan, a chef and bartender originally from County Tyrone, is credited with inventing Irish coffee. But had it not been for inclement weather one night during the winter of 1943, Sheridan might never have dreamed up his historic concoction.

In 1943, Sheridan was working as a chef in the restaurant inside a terminal in the Foynes flying-boat station. One night that winter, a flight bound for Newfoundland departed Foynes, only to turn back several hours later when inclement weather made it impossible for the flight to continue on to its destination. The control tower at the airport at Foynes was notified via Morse code that the flight was returning, and the airport staff, including Sheridan, were called back to work.

Upon returning to work, Sheridan was tasked with creating something warm for the passengers who had been grounded. When making coffee, Sheridan decided to add some Irish whiskey, prompting one appreciative passenger to ask if the coffee was Brazilian coffee.

No, Sheridan replied, that was Irish coffee.

From there, the drink has gone on to gain international acclaim, and perhaps no day is it more appreciated than St. Patrick's Day, when it continues to warm celebrants much like it did the passengers who were grounded in 1943.

Those who want to make their own Irish coffee for St. Patrick's Day can try the following recipe, courtesy of the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum.

Step One

In an Irish coffee glass, place a teaspoon and fill with boiling water for five seconds. Discard the water.

Step Two

In the pre-warmed glass, put 1 teaspoon of brown sugar and a good measure of Irish whiskey.

Step Three

Fill the glass to within 1 cm of the brim with really hot, strong black coffee. Stir well to melt all the sugar.

Step Four

Then carefully pour lightly whipped cream over the back of a spoon so that it floats on top of the coffee.

Step Five

Do not stir after adding the cream, as the true flavor is obtained by drinking the hot coffee and Irish whiskey through the cream.


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