Here's the perfect recipe for Irish coffee on these cold winter nights, and the real story behind who invented it.

Irish coffee was invented by Limerick chef Joseph Sheridan in 1942 to welcome visiting Americans. The travelers arrived in the west of Ireland on a cold winter night, so Sheridan added whiskey to their coffee to warm them up, telling the Americans they were being served Irish coffee.

A San Francisco Chronicle travel writer, Stanton Delaplane, brought the recipe back to the U.S. after drinking Irish coffee at Shannon Airport. It was first served at the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco on November 10, 1952.

The key to a great Irish coffee is using quality ingredients. The coffee should be strong and flavorful, and the whiskey should be Irish whiskey. Jameson, Bushmills, and Tullamore Dew are all popular choices. The sugar should be brown sugar, which adds a hint of caramel flavor to the drink.

Irish Coffee Recipe


  • 1 ½ oz Irish whiskey
  • 5-7 oz hot coffee or 2 shots of espresso
  • 1-2 tsp brown sugar
  • Fresh whipped cream


Run hot water slowly over a glass mug until it’s at room temperature or hotter, and then dry it (pouring hot coffee into a cold glass could cause it to crack).

Add brown sugar to the mug.

Pour in whiskey.

Add coffee or espresso, leaving room at the top for whipped cream.

*To make cold Irish coffee chill the sweetened coffee before adding the whiskey.

Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Set whipped cream on the drink.

Do not stir (the drink stays warmer longer with the cream sitting on top). 

What better way to stay warm during these cold and dark nights?!

* Originally published in 2015. Updated in March 2023.