The history of Irish Coffee began on boat in Foynes, Ireland when a chef decided to add whiskey to coffee to warm the passengers as they waited.
We learn at the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum and also the Irish Coffee Centre, that the boat terminal was home to an aircraft that was a huge seaplane of the 1930s, able to travel vastly long distances.
Pan American World Airways managed a fleet of these flying boats between New York and Ireland, and the first international passenger flights on the Atlantic came to the small village of Foynes, Ireland.
While the flying boats were not as dependable as a normal aircraft, they provided huge capacity but no pressurization so had to fly quite low and so more prone to weather conditions and temperature fluctuations, sometimes so tricky that the flying boat would have to change route or return and wait for improved weather.
So yes, one day in October 1943, a flying boat departed from the Foynes terminal but had to turn back because of bad weather. When the news broke back at the terminal that the flying boat was returning to the terminal – communicated by Morse code! –the terminal chef and other staff were called back to work to prepare nourishment and refreshment to the tired and cold passengers.
What was the First Irish Coffee Made Of?
Don’t be mistaken about the simplicity of the correct recipe instructions where the layers of dark coffee against the white cream are a significant component of the drink, as well as the reason why it was and still is typically served in a glass rather than, opaque mug.
The eye appeal mattered and matters, and celebrities stars and other well-knowns were coming from the United States into Europe around that time, 1939 to 1947, as part of troop entertainment during the war, so customer service and impressive accommodation were important.
The Original Irish Coffee recipe is a process of combining cream, sugar and of course, Irish whiskey to coffee. This is the classic Irish Coffee recipe ingredients by Joe Sheridan and his Irish poetic description to go along with it.
Cream – Rich as an Irish Brogue
Coffee – Strong as a Friendly Hand
Sugar – Sweet as the tongue of a Rogue
Whiskey – Smooth as the Wit of the Land
Later, an official Irish Coffee recipe was documented by Sheridan, and was comprised of a simple five-step process.
It may not sound very innovative, but it really was! Sure, whiskey was popular in Ireland but the combination of coffee and whiskey was new and truly intended to offer extra warmth in that creative moment, not any sort of habit or treat or ritualistic tradition.
Whiskey sure does warm up a throat and stomach, and it wasn’t as harsh as a straight up drink when added to coffee as Sheridan did.
When did Irish Coffee Come to America?
According to the museum about Foynes terminal, people like John F. Kennedy passed through, as well as big stars like Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and there are photos of Marilyn Monroe relaxing at the flying boat terminal, sipping on her Irish Coffee.
This much sought after “enhanced” coffee drink soon spread across the globe, and is a lot more than just adding whiskey into a coffee cup and calling it an Irish Coffee.
And this is how the drink came to the United States via the Atlantic Ocean travels — with this exposure to Irish Coffee and this sort of travel between the United States and Ireland.
History records state that a journalist from San Francisco with the name Stanton Delaplane came through the terminal where he tried the drink and tried to duplicate it with the help of a friend named Koepple when he returned to the States.
The story also has it that the two friends got the coffee and whiskey parts right but the experimenting, according to an article in the SF Gate, “nearly killed Delaplane, who, after sampling dozens of failed experiments, nearly passed out on the cable car tracks.”
The outstanding challenge to figure out was to be able to have the cream float on top like Sheridan’s Irish coffee. Well apparently, San Francisco mayor at the time, George Christopher, who was also a dairy farmer, suggested that Delaplane and Koepple try to age the cream for 2 days before frothing it up, to help with consistency and mass, and it worked!
Into the 1950s, print advertisements about Irish Coffee were published in San Francisco and the popularity of the drink quickly grew. It wasn’t until much later when it showed up and grew in popularity on the east coast in places like New York.
Final Thoughts on the Irish Coffee Name
“Irish Coffee” … Is it from Ireland, and how has it changed over time with developments in coffee and whiskey?
Described by many as, “Creamy, yummy, silky, good”, Irish Coffee remains a vastly popular menu item in restaurants, pubs and bars of most cultural and ethnicity offerings, not just Irish!
Seemingly cultural-appropriated and geographically oriented foods aren’t always originated from the assumed named country or cultural reference.
For example, while General Tso’s chicken was invented by a Chinese person, the recipe and dish are not Chinese but rather originally invented in Taiwan and brought to America when the recipe inventor migrated to the States.
Similarly, Caesar salad sounds like it may have originated in Rome, Italy, but it was invested by an Italian expat with the name Caesar who was working in the States in the mid-1920s!
In the mood for Indian food? Well, Chicken Tikka Masala was invented in Glasgow, Scotland, when a customer at a Bangladeshi restaurant grumbled that his chicken tikka was too dry.
German Chocolate Cake isn’t from Germany at all, but was created and named “German’s chocolate cake,” when an American named Sam German created the dessert treat with mildly dark baking chocolate bar for Baker’s Chocolate Co. As the dish gained popularity the apostrophe and the “s” were omitted.
And finally, Apple Pie, with origins far older than Americans may care to know when claiming, “…as American as Apple Pie…” In fact, Dutch apple pies have serving as comfort food since around the 1500s.
And in England, author Jane Austen wrote about them. By the 1600s, over 70 types of apples were in England whereas America received its first apple tree in the 1800s!
So the next time your in a Irish bar or restaurant and ask for a Irish Coffee and Enjoy!