Irish Coffee is how I backed my way into becoming a coffee drinker. I spent most of my life as a non-coffee drinker and for someone who spent 20 years in the restaurant business, that’s an accomplishment. It’s not that I hated the taste of coffee, it was just never my thing. For caffeine, I would stick to Coke or Mountain Dew, or for my brief Jessie Spano phase, Ultra Pep Back caffeine pills, but never coffee. It was the warmness of coffee that I never appreciated. It actually made me sleepy. Weird, I know. But I avoided it. However over the years on the occasions when I would be out to dinner, when the opportunity came to have an after dinner drink I would indulge in the Irish Coffee. Really it was just another vehicle for me to drink more booze when I didn’t want the party to end, so I would order one and enjoy. Something about it tasted good after a big meal. Warmed me up. So that was my coffee intake for a while.
I am not sure exactly when I started drinking regular coffee, but a lot has to do with Lola who is a huge coffee fan. I think we were out one day and stopped for a coffee for her. I, in need of a caffeine boost, decided to try one too. A cappuccino actually. I liked it. Something clicked inside me. And from there, I started ordering it more frequently. Now I can say I am a coffee drinker. It’s how I start my day. I crave it, and I rely on it. I’m hooked. It could even be a problem.
I still love the occasional Irish Coffee too. I thought Irish Coffee would have a long and fabled history that involved old pubs, banshees and leprechauns, but apparently its history begins in 1942 at an airport in the town of Foynes which is part of County Limerick in Ireland. The tale goes that it was a cold, wet and stormy day in which a flight full of Americans was called back because the weather was too rough to continue. It was a few hours of really tumultuous flight and when the passengers finally disembarked, they were cold, wet and shivering. The chef at the terminal restaurant, Joseph Sheridan, made a pot of very strong coffee and added in some good Irish whisky to serve to the shaken passengers. The passengers really enjoyed the chef’s secret concoction. As the story is told by WhatsCookingAmerica.net, “One passenger even asked Sheridan if they were drinking Brazilian coffee. Chef Sheridan famously replied, “No, that’s Irish coffee.”” The beverage caught on. The airport in Foynes eventually shut down and Sheridan went to work at Shannon International Airport across the estuary where his drink garnered more fans and popularity. Today there is a plaque at Shannon honoring Mr. Sheridan for his achievement. Furthermore, there is an air museum at the Foynes location which hosts an annual Irish Coffee Festival every June. I may have to go check that out.
There is also a claim that the Irish Coffee began in 1945 by Joe Jackson at the Ulster Hotel, located in Ballybofey, County Donegal. His drink was (is) made with coffee, sugar, Irish whiskey, and then a layer of cream on top which is kind of the version we think of today. His concoction was devised also as a means to warm up. Some say this version came first while others still claim Joe Sheridan as the originator. We may never know. We’ll let the debate keep raging in Irish pubs throughout the world.
I was, to use a phrase Lola has been saying, a little ‘down in the Trumps’ today. I started reading about everything going on and I went into this dark vortex of doom. There’s a lot of that going around these days. In any case, I was in a funk and couldn’t snap out of it. And it was only 2:30. Sometimes that’s how it goes. So I walked away from my computer, grabbed the Jameson Irish Whisky and decided to make myself a cocktail. Truth be told, the idea of making an Irish Coffee in the afternoon had entered my mind earlier in the day because I was worried that if I had one later in the day, I would have trouble sleeping. So I am officially old that I worry about that stuff, but nonetheless, that thought was hiding in my head. It may or may not have been the catalyst to make me have a 2:30 cocktail.
I tried to make it in the exact Joe Jackson tradition because the aforementioned article included his original recipe in the text (no disrespect to Mr. Sheridan, it just seemed like a more fun recipe). So I made a batch of fresh whipped cream, brewed some strong coffee and got out two brown sugar cubes. I put the sugar in the glass (which I had warmed up), I poured in my Jameson, then added the coffee. Stirred it so the sugar cubes would be dissolved, and then topped in some whipped cream. It looked pretty good if I do say so myself.
We should all have a 2:30 Irish Coffee break. It will really take the edge off of you in the afternoon. This was very good, although it tasted a little different than I am used to for an Irish coffee. I think it was the brown sugar, which was a specialty sugar that I purchased a while back. It gave it sweetness, but has a molasses taste to it, so that probably changed the taste here. It was still good though. The hot coffee and the cool whipped cream was a treat, and the whisky is always good. Did you know that they say Jameson is the Catholic Irish whisky (being from County Cork in southern Ireland) while Bushmills from Northern Ireland is the Protestant whisky? How did religion get into my whisky? In any case, it was the perfect break.
The day was done for me at that point because I couldn’t go back to my computer lest I fall back into the vortex. Lola was in the same place too, so she suggested we get out of the house and see a movie. An excellent idea. We went to go see Hidden Figures which gets a big thumbs up from me. It’s about three African-American woman who were behind the success of the NASA mission to space in the sixties and the discrimination and struggle they had to persevere to prove their worth. I love movies about space and movies that can make math seem interesting on the big screen. Plus, it’s important to see the fight for civil rights portrayed on screen, especially these days. It’s history I didn’t know about, which is always enlightening.
That was my Irish Coffee day which, like the passengers on that stormy flight out of Foynes, I was called back in and had my soul warmed up my a very special cocktail. Maybe it was a little early in the day, especially on a Wednesday, but that’s how it goes sometimes. The movie helped too. It took me away. I feel like our future has more of this in store for us. Where the news becomes so overwhelming that our sanity will be found through both kindred spirits and Irish spirits. Fill my cup up with that. Thank you Joseph Sheridan for delivering a warm and delicious drink to help us through the storm. The storm is building, but don’t worry, the Jameson is well-stocked. And so is the resistance.
Next Up: National Peanut Brittle Day