Irish Coffee

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Get your mug ready! Irish coffee is one of the best hot cocktails to start a leisurely morning or to enjoy after a nice meal. It’s a festive adult drink that will put a big grin on your face. Cheers!

Irish coffee in a glass
Table of Contents
  1. Cream topping
  2. Keeping the glass warm
  3. Choice of coffee roast
  4. For a hint of sweetness
  5. Whiskey selection
  6. Mixing the cocktail
  7. Special serving glasses
  8. Optional toppings and add-ins
  9. Serve this with
  10. Irish Coffee Recipe

Are you looking for a fun way to celebrate the holidays, maybe one like St. Patrick’s Day? This recipe comes highly requested from my husband, Jason. With a last name like Gavin, he’s always encouraging me to make more Irish-inspired recipes. So fire up your coffee maker, and let’s get started.

To make this concoction, you need four simple components; a strong spirit, freshly brewed coffee, brown sugar, and lightly whipped cream. Although with so few items, that makes ingredient selection and the process very important.

Cream topping

Adding heavy whipping cream on top of the Irish coffee makes for a dramatic appearance and velvety taste. The goal is to whisk the unsweetened cream until enough air pockets form to make it spoonable. It’s similar to making whipped cream for desserts. However, mix until foamy with soft peaks.

This consistency allows the cream to float on top briefly, then gradually melt and scatter to the glass’s bottom. To prevent the coffee from cooling down, I recommend making the cream first, then store it inside the refrigerator until ready to use.

Recipe Resources

Keeping the glass warm

Adding room-temperature whiskey to hot coffee will drop the cocktail temperature several degrees. If desired, you can preheat the mug with hot water by filling it up and letting it sit for at least 2 minutes. Just don’t let it cool down much longer than that. 

When you’re ready to mix everything, pour out the water. This technique works great if making a few cocktails at the same time. Keeping the mug or glass better insulted helps the coffee drink retain its heat.

Choice of coffee roast

For the best match-up with the aged whiskey’s oaky taste, go for a medium roast coffee. It has a balanced level of acidity, flavor, aroma and is slightly sweeter than light roasts. However, if you enjoy a more bittersweet aftertaste with minimal acidity, try a medium-dark roast. Dark will be too strong in bitterness and will overpower the other ingredients.

For a hint of sweetness

To balance the bitter coffee notes, I use dark brown sugar. This sweetener contains molasses and adds a beautiful caramel flavor to the drink. I use just one teaspoon, but if you like it sweeter, double it. You can use any other sweetener like granulated sugar, honey, or maple syrup, although each has slightly different taste profiles.

Whiskey selection

No surprise here. Irish whiskey is the spirit to use for this cocktail. Select your favorite brand- we prefer Jameson. It has a very smooth finish because it’s been triple distilled, with a subtly sweet taste and aroma. The oaky, vanilla, spiced, and nutty flavor complements the bitter taste of the coffee.

pouring whiskey into a cup of coffee

Mixing the cocktail

Add the brown sugar first, then the hot coffee, and stir. It only takes a few seconds to dissolve. Quickly add the whiskey, and stir. Top with about ¾ to 1-inch of lightly whipped cream on top. This creates an attractive contrasting black and white layer. 

Over time the cream will seep down into the coffee, infusing it with the astringent alcohol and bitter coffee for a nicely balanced taste. This recipe makes for one cocktail but can be easily scaled up to serve more.

Special serving glasses

Not required, but if you’re looking to score style points, I recommend these Irish coffee mugs. The clear stemmed glasses hold about 8 ounces of liquid, leaving enough room for the whipped cream topping. Any larger and the balance of the ingredients are thrown off. The rim slightly tapers out, making sipping easy. It’s also versatile to use for teas, cappuccino, and hot chocolate.

adding cream to the top of coffee

Optional toppings and add-ins

  • Green sprinkles for a festive St. Patrick’s Day treat
  • Top with chocolate shavings or cocoa powder
  • Dust with ground cinnamon or nutmeg
  • Make it sweeter with homemade Irish cream or Baileys
  • Drizzle some caramel sauce on top or use it as the sweetener

Serve this with

Irish coffee with cream and chocolate shavings on top

Use freshly brewed coffee

Typically, freshly brewed coffee is around 180 to 185-degrees, and then it begins to cool down quickly. Most people enjoy it around 140ºF [Source]. When you add the alcohol shot, I notice at least a 7-degree immediate reduction. It’s best to start at the highest coffee temperature you can to give yourself enough time to assemble and serve the cocktail hot.

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Irish Coffee

Irish coffee is one of the best hot cocktails to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day! It's a festive way to start a morning or enjoy after a meal.
Pin Print Review
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time15 mins
Servings 1 serving
Course Drink
Cuisine Irish


  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream, heavy cream, or whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • 4 ounces hot coffee
  • 1 ½ ounce Irish whiskey, Jameson recommended


  • In a medium bowl, add the heavy whipping cream. Whisk until it lightly thickens and just begins to hold a soft peak, about 2 to 3 minutes. It helps to tilt the bowl while whipping by hand. It should be frothy enough to scoop and float on top of the coffee but not be too stiff. Refrigerate until ready to top.
  • Fill a mug or glass cup with hot tap water and allow it to sit for about 2 minutes to warm. Discard the water when ready to make the cocktail, don’t let it cool down completely. This step is optional but recommended.
  • To the warmed glass, add the brown sugar and hot coffee. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then add the whiskey and briefly stir.
  • Top the beverage with ¾ to 1-inch of whipped cream.


  • Make it Sweetener: Add 2 teaspoons of brown sugar.
  • Sweetener Substitutes: Granulated sugar, honey, or maple syrup for brown sugar.
  • Garnish: Lightly sprinkle the cream with cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa powder, chocolate shavings, or green sprinkles.
  • Using Irish Cream: Add 1 ounce of Irish cream or Baileys and only ½ ounce of whiskey.
  • Skip the Whipping Step: If you don’t like such a thick topping, you can pour a few tablespoons of heavy cream over the back of a spoon so that it stays floating longer.

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Nutrition Facts
Irish Coffee
Amount Per Serving
Calories 118 Calories from Fat 99
% Daily Value*
Fat 11g17%
Saturated Fat 7g35%
Cholesterol 41mg14%
Sodium 12mg1%
Potassium 28mg1%
Carbohydrates 5g2%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 437IU9%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 23mg2%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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