Features Spirits


Irish coffee was big in the ’80s – but then everything was big in the ’80s. Big hair … big shoulder pads … big ruffles on shirts, male and female… This drink is something of a tasty tweak or riff on the original.

Anyone who has had the privilege of a safari game drive that started in the dark hours before dawn will know the particular joy which a warm mug of coffee can provide. And when a slug of cream liqueur is added, the warm drink is elevated to another level.

Obviously, on safari, the most popular addition to coffee is the one which is the spirit of Africa, with the label featuring elephants picking marula fruit in the wild. This recipe, however, harks back to the source of the Irish Coffee cocktail.

The story goes that a group of travellers were stranded at an airport in Limerick, county Cork in Ireland. It was the middle of winter and particularly nasty weather prevented their flight to New York from proceeding. The café owner brewed up a fresh pot of coffee, added a dollop of Irish whiskey for good measure and topped off each mug with thick cream.

Known as Irish Coffee on the Emerald Isle, the drink really took off in the ’50s after a travel writer requested one at a San Francisco coffee shop. America took to Irish Coffee with alacrity, some believe out of nostalgia because of the number of Irish immigrants or people with Irish roots.

The origin of this Irish Cream Coffee hasn’t been documented but the recipe can be found on internet sites and appears to be a popular drink around March 17, St Patrick’s Day which is celebrated with fervour in the United States.

It’s essentially an Irish Coffee – a good brew, sweetened or unsweetened depending on personal preference, with the addition of a cream liqueur. It also makes perfect sense that most often the one chosen is the world’s number one selling cream – Baileys. What’s not to love about an already warming whisky-laced coffee with an addition decadently creamy element added?!



6 oz (180ml) hot coffee

1 oz (30ml) cream liqueur (Bailey’s Irish Cream)

1 oz (30ml) Irish whiskey

1/2 oz (15ml) thick cream, lightly whipped


Brew coffee. Your choice of pour over, drip coffee, or French press or even regular or decaffeinated.

Lightly whip the cream so that it thickens and increases slightly in density and volume.

In a large coffee mug or Irish coffee glass combine coffee, whiskey, and Irish cream. Layer whipped cream on top and enjoy.


Additional tips:

  • Since the coffee is the star of the show, not the liquor, make sure you use a strong brew or espresso.
  • Another useful tip is to heat the mug before building the drink. Simply pour hot or boiling water into the mug while brewing the coffee.
  • If you want to earn maximum points for visual appeal, sprinkle a little cinnamon, nutmeg or even cocoa powder on the top.
  • The recipe doesn’t call for sugar but if you like your coffee on the sweeter side, feel free to stir some in before you add the whipped cream topping.