International Coffee

A Brief History of Irish Coffee

There’s an art to making the perfect caife Gaelach.

By Paul Galvani February 25, 2021 Published in the December 2020 issue of Houstonia Magazine

The first transatlantic flight from New York to Foynes’ Port on the west coast of Ireland, on June 22, 1942, took 25 hours and 40 minutes because the planes weren’t pressurized, had to fly at low altitude, and were vulnerable to bad weather. One such flight in 1943 had to return to Foynes’ Port because of said bad weather. Upon hearing this, Joe Sheridan, the chef at the terminal restaurant, added whiskey to the coffee he served the passengers as a way to warm them up. It worked. Little did he know that he had created one of the best-known drinks in the world.  

Not only is Irish coffee named after a country, it’s also the only coffee marked by its own day, January 25. Since opening in 1983, Kenneally’s Irish Pub has been brewing the coffee to order, though on certain days they have to regulate pours.

“We have to limit how many we serve during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, since we don’t have enough glasses to serve everyone,” says the pub’s owner, Sheila Kenneally Flowers.

While brewing it, a bartender heats a special glass for at least two minutes, drops in a teaspoon of brown sugar, and pours in a jigger of Jameson whiskey, mixing well. Next comes the coffee (simple Folgers will do) followed by a thick layer of whipped cream, which is spooned on the top. The final flourish is a drizzle of crème de menthe, which adds a spot of color and minty flavor. 

There’s an art to making the perfect caife Gaelach—as it’s called in Ireland—which is to ensure that the cream has been whipped to exactly the right consistency, not too runny and not too thick. It must float on top, ensuring that the spiked coffee can be drunk through the cream. In many ways, its white-on-black resembles that other famous Irish drink, Guinness.

Kenneally’s Irish Pub

Hyde Park | 2111 S Shepherd Dr,

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