Bay Area cocktail recipes: Mostly Classic Irish Coffee

A new coffee cookbook highlights San Francisco’s longstanding caffeinated cocktail.

Irish Coffee is “the real coffee cocktail GOAT,” according to the co-authors of “But First, Coffee,” a new coffee cookbook.

Authors Jordan Michelman and Zachary Carlsen credit San Francisco’s iconic Buena Vista Cafe for popularizing the drink, but they also have a few suggestions for making an excellent one at home with a few minor changes.

“Our two big departures here are the whiskey and the sugar,” they write in their introduction.

Mostly Classic Irish Coffee

Makes 1 drink


Hot water heated to 180 degrees for preheating the glass

Splash of Demerara Simple Syrup (recipe below)

4 ounces (1/2 cup) hot filter coffee (ideally a daily drinking blend from your favorite roaster)

2 ounces (1/4 cup) Irish whiskey (Tullamore D.E.W. is traditional, but we also like Knappogue Castle, Green Spot and Writers’ Tears)

Frothed cool cream, in the style of Buena Vista Cafe (see below)


Fill your glass nearly to the top with hot water and set it aside for at least 30 seconds to fully warm the vessel. A traditional Irish coffee tulip is ideal, but any heatproof 6-ounce glass will suffice.

Remove the preheating water from the glass, then add a splash of Demerara Simple Syrup. Pour in the coffee, followed by the whiskey.

Float a layer of frothed cool cream on top of the drink gently and carefully with a practiced hand. Serve right away.

Demerara Simple Syrup

Makes 12 ounces

1 cup Demerara sugar

1 cup water

Allow to cool completely, then store in a bottle or flask with a sealed lid. It will keep for 1 month in the refrigerator.

Frothed cool cream

The cream-float bit at the end is tricky, much to the chagrin of bartenders everywhere, but a few pointers can go a long way. To begin, don’t overwhip your cream — you don’t want “whipped cream,” but rather lightly frothed cream. Slowly pour the cream over the back of a metal spoon to create an even, unbroken layer of cream and coffee. The drink should look “sealed,” with no frothy cream falling into the coffee.

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