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How to make the perfect Irish coffee

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Today is National Irish Coffee Day, so if you need a boost at any point in your day, don’t hesitate to treat yourself. But first, unless you’re taking advantage of the easing of Covid restrictions and letting the professionals serve you, you’ll need to know how to craft one, properly.

A well-made Irish coffee has clearly defined layers, with a thick layer of velvety cold crema on top and a dark, deep coffee below. No one wants to see that perfect halo of cream sink into the coffee.

Barry Farrell, resident bartender at Slane Distillery, has these suggestions: “When making Irish coffee, the first two steps really make a difference to the end result. First, make sure you choose the right size glass. At Slane Distillery, we use a 6oz Georgian coffee glass, which helps accentuate the aroma of Irish coffee. Before adding ingredients, also be sure to preheat the glass with boiling water.

I don’t know if it’s essential or not, but I always place a spoon in the glass, to absorb some of the heat and prevent the glass from breaking, before adding the boiling water. The same spoon can be used to pour the cream over the coffee, the heat it has absorbed allows the cream to penetrate more easily. Pour the cream over the back of the spoon, the tip of the spoon barely touching the coffee.

Barry Farrell agrees: “A common mistake is to whip the cream too much for an Irish coffee. It just needs to be lightly whipped so it can be poured over a spoon to create the filling.

When it comes to making an Irish coffee without sugar, don’t. Unless you have a supernatural power over cream and coffee, they are less likely to stay in their proper layers without coffee sugar. And the taste won’t be the same either. Barry Farrell’s recipe (below) uses vanilla syrup, the kind found in some cafes, to create the type of drink serious baristas frown upon, instead of sugar.

The icing on the coffee can come in the form of a burst of finely grated chocolate, or a coffee bean, gently placed on top.

The historical origins of the drink are not entirely clear. Irish Times journalist Ronan McGreevy has two theories. “The oft-repeated story goes that Irish coffee was invented at the old Foynes Flying Boat Airport in 1942 when a transatlantic plane had to turn back due to bad weather. Bartender Joe Sheridan found the recipe to warm stranded passengers.

“Another version of the story says that Irish coffee was invented in Dublin. This claim came from a Harvard history professor, John V Gallagher, presumably a man of the most impeccable sources. He wrote an essay stating that Irish coffee was actually invented at Dublin’s Temple Bar Dolphin and concocted by owner Michael Nugent, to disguise the awful taste of wartime coffee.

Barry Farrell’s Ultimate Irish Coffee

Ingredients

Espresso coffee, make it a double shot
15ml vanilla syrup
40ml Slane Irish Whiskey
Boiling water
3 tablespoons lightly whipped cream
1 teaspoon dark orange chocolate shavings

Method

1 Prepare your espresso and make a double. At Slane Distillery we use the signature blend of our local roast Ariosa Coffee which is roasted to a medium level and gives a nice balance to an Irish coffee. Then add 15ml vanilla infused syrup and 40ml Slane Irish Whiskey to the glass. Mix all the elements together and top up with boiling water.

2 Depending on the size of your glass, remember to leave enough space for a nice topping of whipped cream. Then add a sprinkle of dark orange chocolate shavings on top for a sweet finish, sit back and enjoy.