Irish Coffee

5 from 4 votes
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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 tall glass.

Are you looking for a fun way to celebrate the holidays, maybe one like St. Patrick’s Day? This recipe is highly requested by 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 classic Irish coffee recipe, you need four simple components: a strong spirit, freshly brewed coffee, brown sugar, and lightly whipped cream. However, so few items make ingredient selection and the process very important. This recipe makes for one cocktail but can be easily scaled up to serve more.

Recipe ingredients

  • Cream: Use heavy whipping cream to make a light and foamy topping.
  • Sugar: I use dark brown sugar to balance the bitter coffee notes. 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.
  • Coffee: Go for a medium roast coffee for the best match-up with the aged whiskey’s oaky taste. It has a balanced acidity, flavor, and aroma and is slightly sweeter than light roasts. However, try a medium-dark roast if you enjoy a bittersweet aftertaste with minimal acidity. Dark will be too strong and will overpower the other ingredients.
  • Alcohol: No surprise here. Irish whiskey is the spirit to use for this cocktail. Select your favorite brand- we prefer Jameson. It has a 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.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Make the cream topping

whisking cream in a bowl
heavy whipping cream with soft peaks

Step 1: I use my homemade whipped cream for the best taste and texture. Of course, storebought works as a quick alternative. The goal is to whisk the unsweetened cream until enough air pockets form to make it spoonable.

Mix until foamy with soft peaks so the cream will float on top briefly, then gradually melt and scatter to the bottom of the glass. To prevent the coffee from cooling down, I recommend making the cream first and then storing it inside the refrigerator until ready to use.

Special serving glasses

It’s not required, but I recommend these Irish coffee mugs if you want to score style points. 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 for teas, cappuccino, and hot chocolate.

Warm the glasses

Hot water in a glass mug.

Step 2: Adding room-temperature whiskey to hot coffee will drop the cocktail temperature several degrees. I recommend preheating 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.

Dissolve the sugar

Pouring coffee into a glass mug with brown sugar at the bottom.
Spoon mixing a coffee to dissolve the sugar.

Step 3: Add the brown sugar first, then the hot coffee, and stir. It only takes a few seconds to dissolve. This makes a lightly sweetened coffee.

Add the whiskey

Whiskey being poured into a cup of coffee.

Step 4: Pour the whiskey into the glass and stir to combine.

Garnish and serve

Whipped cream being added on top of a glass of coffee.

Step 5: Top with whipped cream, about a ¾ to 1-inch layer. 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 taste.

Irish coffee variations

Serving suggestions

Frequently asked questions

What is Irish coffee?

A hot coffee cocktail typically enoyed to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, or an after dinner drink. Irish coffee ingredients consist of brewed coffee, Irish whiskey like Jameson, brown sugar for a hint of sweetness, and lightly whipped cream on top for a velvety texture with each sip.

What’s the difference between Bailey’s coffee and Irish coffee?

Bailey coffee is made with Irish cream liquor like the Baileys brand, which already has cream and a sweetener. Irish coffee adds the coffee, whiskey, and brown sugar separately, then is served with cream on top and not mixed in.

How much alcohol is in Irish coffee?

One serving of Irish coffee typically contains 1 ½ ounces of whiskey for four ounces of coffee.

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 cools down quickly. Most people enjoy it around 140ºF. 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 to give yourself enough time to assemble and serve the cocktail hot.

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.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Servings 1 serving
Course Drink
Cuisine Irish

Ingredients 
 

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

Instructions 

  • Whip the Cream – 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.
  • Warm the Mug – Fill a tall 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 the mug cool down completely. This step is optional but recommended.
  • Dissolve the Sugar – To the warmed glass, add the brown sugar and hot coffee. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
  • Add the Whiskey – Use a jigger to add the whiskey to the glass and briefly stir to combine.
  • To Serve – Top the drink with 1 inch of whipped cream to fill the glass. Garnish with sprinkles and chocolate shavings if desired.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Whiskey: Jameson is recommended.
  • Make it Sweeter: 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, pour a few tablespoons of heavy cream over the back of a spoon to stay floating longer.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 1 serving
Calories 118kcal (6%)Carbohydrates 5g (2%)Protein 1g (2%)Fat 11g (17%)Saturated Fat 7g (35%)Cholesterol 41mg (14%)Sodium 12mg (1%)Potassium 28mg (1%)Sugar 4g (4%)Vitamin A 437IU (9%)Vitamin C 1mg (1%)Calcium 23mg (2%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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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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Jessica Gavin standing in the kitchen

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