Perfect Irish Coffee

Tips from the experts at the Buena Vista Cafe

There are several reasons why places become legendary: they do something well; they have a great atmosphere; the people who work there are interesting; or they've stood the test of time. The Buena Vista Cafe at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, California is a classic for all these reasons. It was established in 1896 and became known for its outstanding Irish Coffee in 1952. That's the year Jack Keoppler and Stanton Deleplane perfected the coffee drink that bartender Joe Sheridan served in Ireland's Shannon Airport. Today, the recipe remains the same.

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I came here to find out how to make a perfect Irish Coffee. Paul Nolan, who's been tending bar at the establishment since 1977, readily shares his expertise. Try his Irish Coffee tips and make a bit of history in your kitchen with this time-tested recipe ― it may enliven a party and bring you some good ol' Irish flattery.


Step 1: Brew coffee. Make about 4.5 ounces of coffee for each glass.

Use standard coffee like Folgers Classic Roast.

Step 2: Warm a 6-ounce Irish Coffee glass (available from the Buna Vista Cafe gift shop).

Pour hot water into the glass, let it sit for a few seconds and empty the glass.

Step 3: Place 2 sugar cubes in the warm glass or 1½ teaspoons of sugar if you don't have cubes.

Use cane sugar because it dissolves fast.

Step 4: Fill the glass ¾ of the way full with coffee and stir to dissolve the sugar.

Step 5: Pour about 1 jigger (1½ ounces) of Irish whiskey into the glass.

Tullamore Dew brand is recommended.

Step 6: Whip heavy whipping cream in a blender on low speed until frothy.

Keep a reserve of heavy cream on hand in case you over whip it. You can always pour more cream into the blender to balance the aeration.

Step 7: Add about ¼ inch of cream by pouring it over a spoon onto the mixture, topping off the glass.

The cream should float on top of the drink.

Note: Don't stir the beverage after step 2. Sip the Irish Coffee through the cream. Ideally, you'll have a small amount of cream in the bottom of the glass after the liquid has been consumed.

INFO: The Buena Vista; $$; 2765 Hyde St., San Francisco; 415/474-5044.

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