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Coffee is a beverage that is beloved by billions of people all over the world for its delicious flavors as well as its caffeinating properties. But adding the special ingredient that turns it into Irish Coffee takes it from something out of the daily grind and turns it into something special and rare.

It’s time for National Irish Coffee Day!

History of National Irish Coffee Day

1942 proved a fortuitous year for transatlantic travelers who were weary from the cold and damp conditions of an Irish winter. Thanks to the innovative imagination of bartender Joe Sheridan, they were soon to have their cockles delightfully warmed by an almost decadent blend of fine Irish whiskey with the irresistible taste and aroma of freshly brewed coffee.

Sheridan, a chef at Foynes Point, near Limerick, Ireland, recognized the fact that travelers were coming through his port more often due to its use as one of the biggest civilian airports during World War II. Many political figures and folks of Hollywood fame would come through this port as they stopped over for refueling on their way to other destinations. Due to this increased travel, a restaurant was created for these passengers and Sheridan famously treated them with his coffee that was made “Irish” with the addition of Irish whiskey.

As it developed, the drink was combined with the subtle sweetness of brown sugar and sipped through the luxurious density of a dollop of whipped cream. This was a recipe that would become a global hit and would eventually require no specific weather conditions to be enjoyed.

National Irish Coffee Day will be celebrated worldwide by the millions of discerning diners who may have rounded off countless meals with this enticing and aromatic blend of beverages on all of the other 364 days of the year, but this one is particularly special. In fact, its advent will be just as enthusiastically commemorated by the millions more who need no special occasion to mark the unique marriage of two of the most appreciated tastes ever concocted.

National Irish Coffee Day Timeline


Whiskey is invented in Ireland

More than 500 years prior to its addition to coffee (or officially, at least!) whiskey is known to have been distilled in Ireland. Scholars believe that Christian monks were responsible for bringing back the distillation process from their travels east.[1][2]


Joe Sheridan invents Irish Coffee

At Foynes Park, near Limerick, Ireland, chef Joe Sheridan helps out some weary travelers who are stranded at the airport by making their coffee with sugar, whiskey and cream.[3]


Irish Coffee is introduced in New York

Food critic, Clementine Paddleford, writes a St. Patrick’s Day column for the New York Herald Tribune and includes a recipe for Irish Coffee with cream, sugar and whiskey. The drink doesn’t really gain traction in the US, though, until a few years later on the west coast.[4]


Irish Coffee is introduced in San Francisco

Travel writer Stanton Delaplane tells a bartender at Buena Vista Hotel in San Francisco about the delicious drink and asks for it to be recreated. The story goes that the bartender can’t figure out how to make the cream float, so he travels to Ireland himself to learn from the drink inventor, Joe Sheridan. As it turns out, the cream either needs to be poured over a spoon onto the drink or gently spooned on top of the drink to keep it from sinking.[5]


Bailey’s Irish Cream is invented

Adding elements of cocoa flavors, Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur is put into production, which provides a welcome expansion to the flavors of Irish Coffee drinks. The spirit is manufactured in Ireland and exported all over the world.[6]

How to Celebrate National Irish Coffee Day

Celebrating National Irish Coffee Day can be great fun! Try out these fun ideas for getting involved with the day and making it a delight.

Go Out for Irish Coffee

To perfectly celebrate this day, it might be best enjoyed with a collection of other people who not only appreciate Irish Coffee, but they appreciate a variety of other things related to Ireland (and perhaps coffee) as well. Most reputable restaurants, bars, and pubs will be able to provide a delicious cup of Irish coffee. Meet up with some friends and have it as a brunch cocktail, or go out with a few colleagues after work and make a toast with a tasty, steaming cup of Irish Coffee.

Stay in for Irish Coffee and Make Your Own

Folks who don’t feel like going out to celebrate can certainly stay in and make it a fun night on their own. All it really takes is a pot of coffee (decaf if it’s late in the evening and you’re worried about losing sleep) and some Irish whiskey. Although other alternatives do exist for making recipes, such as brown sugar and cream, these first two are the most important ingredients, of course.

Get Creative with Irish Coffee

While the two most important ingredients are listed in the name, it is also possible to make things much more interesting with some unique ingredients added to the basic recipe. Try out one of these modernized Irish Coffee ideas in celebration of the day:

  • The Blind Abbott. Start with cold brew coffee and 1 shot of Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey. Then intensify the coffee flavor even more by adding a half shot of Galliano Ristretto, an espresso-based liqueur. Finish it off with some cinnamon syrup and a few dashes of bitters, pour over ice and shake until frosty. Serve topped with fresh, sweet whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  • Vintage Coffee Cocktail. Named after the Vintage Cocktail Club located in Dublin, Ireland, this one is Dublin-ified with a bit of the city’s signature beer: Guinness. Start by infusing Guinness with some malt extract and a vanilla bean pod over heat. This combination is then whisked together with whipping cream and stirred in with a shot of Paddy Old Irish Whiskey, a few shots of espresso, and a teaspoon of light molasses. Top with a garnish of nutmeg sprinkling.
  • Gort’s Reprieve Irish Coffee. Featured at the Drink.Well Bar in Austin, Texas, this unique version of the drink is a fun departure from the original. Start with coffee that has been freshly brewed in a French Press, then add in a shot of Irish Whiskey and a half shot of amaro (Italian herbal bitters), a bit of simple syrup and a few dashes of New Orleans coffee bitters. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle on some spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice. Make it extra special by adding chocolate covered espresso beans on top!
  • Bailey’s Irish Cream Coffee. This recipe builds a sweeter, creamier, stronger drink (reminiscent of a dessert!) by starting with coffee and whiskey, then adding a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream Liqueur and finishing it off with a dollop of sweet whipped cream.

Get Some New Irish Coffee Glasses

Irish coffee is traditionally served in a clear-glass, stemmed mug with a low handle that is probably only big enough to fit one finger through it. They’re made by a variety of glass manufacturers, including Anchor Hocking and Libbey, and are super affordable. Those who appreciate the traditional style can certainly serve their Irish Coffee in this style of mug.

A slightly more luxurious take on the traditional Irish Coffee mug would be the Waterford Crystal Lismore version, which is rather expensive but also impressive. For a more affordable crystal option, look into the Godinger Dublin version.

On the other hand, for a unique serving option, choose a double-walled glass coffee cup. These practical cups are insulated so that there’s no need for a handle, which gives them a look that is sleek and modern.

For something authentically Irish, go for the glassware made by Jameson, the Irish whiskey company. These glasses are gently branded with the Jameson logo, lending authority to the drink. Of course, it isn’t required to only use the Jameson Brand of whiskey in these glasses, but it does feel like the right thing to do.

No matter how it is served, enjoying a cup of Irish Coffee is the perfect way to celebrate this day!

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