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Irish Coffee - That Rich and Creamy Taste...

Novembre 2010
Come tutte le formule vincenti, l’Irish Coffee è nato per caso, dall’idea geniale di un barman. La sua è una storia strana, nata a Limerick, passata per San Francisco e poi nel resto del mondo. Il segreto per farne uno buono ve lo spieghiamo in queste pagine.

di Kathleen Becker

File audio:

Irish Coffee
Irish Coffee
Ruthie Coleman
Ruthie Coleman

The year is 1942, and it’s winter. The place is Foynes in County Limerick on the west coast of Ireland.  Before Shannon Airport was built, Foynes was the base for “flying boats” – seaplanes transporting passengers between Europe and North America. One day a Pan Am flying boat on its way to Canada had to turn back after five hours of fighting Atlantic storms. The air base bar at Foynes expected the passengers to be frozen and miserable. So Jim Sheridan, head chef of the bar, decided to prepare something special. To warm up his customers, he put some Irish whiskey into hot coffee. When one of the passengers asked: “Is this Brazilian coffee?” Jim Sheridan answered: “No, this is Irish Coffee!” A legend was born. One of the passengers that night was a journalist with the San Francisco Chronicle called Stanton Delaplane, who had won the Pulitzer Prize that year.


Back in San Francisco Delaplane gave the recipe to a friend who owned the bar at the Buena Vista Café. But they could not get the cream to stay on top, so the bar owner had to visit Ireland to learn how to do it right. The cream has to be poured gently over a spoon, so it does not hit the hot liquid and dissolve. The coffee and whiskey mixture is then drunk through the cream. Apparently, Stanton Delaplane nearly passed out on the cable car tracks outside the café, after “researching the best method!”
The Buena Vista started serving the drink in 1952 and has served over 30 million Irish Coffees: it is still serving over 2,000 of them a day. In 2008, the café entered Guinness World Records when it made the “World’s Largest Irish Coffee.”
You might think: why spoil three lovely things? But together coffee, whiskey, and cream develop a special alchemy, especially on a cold Irish day by an open fire. Today, the older generation in Ireland does drink Irish Coffee after dinner, and new versions are served to adventurous drinkers, but most Irish Coffees are still sold to tourists. Every year, an Irish Coffee Festival celebrates the national drink – at Foynes, the small village in the West of Ireland where it all began.



Speaker: Justin Ratcliffe (Standard British accent)

Ireland is famous for whiskey, but have you ever tried Irish Coffee? It’s a wonderful mixture of coffee, whiskey and cream. It was originally invented in 1942 by a barman in County Limerick in order to bring comfort to some stranded American tourists. And, nearly 70 years later, it is still going strong.
One person who knows how to make a good Irish Coffee is 20-year-old Ruthie Coleman. She works in the Jasmine Bar at the Brooks Hotel in Dublin. The bar stocks more than 100 different types of whiskey and is rightly on the Ireland Whiskey Trail. We asked her to explain how to make the perfect Irish Coffee:

Ruthie Coleman (Irish accent)

Either you use a Paris goblet or a latte glass. And you heat the glass first. And then you empty it out and get fresh boiling water. And then, according to the customer, you add sugar. Normally, it’s two sugars, but, if the customer doesn’t like a sweet coffee, you have to explain to them that the sugar actually makes the cream level on it, so... the Irish coffee needs a bit of sugar in it. And then, once the sugar dissolves, then you add a shot of coffee, and then you add your shot of whiskey – Jameson whiskey is the one that we use – and you stir well until it’s dissolved. And then you use double cream and you shake it well, and then you use the back of a teaspoon and you pour it gently to make it settle on the top.

But, as she explains, sometimes things can go wrong!

Ruthie Coleman

Sometimes, if you don’t stir the Irish Coffee well, the mixture of the sugar and the whiskey and the coffee isn’t mixed well, so you might get different tastes at different stages when you’re drinking it. Second, well, if the cream’s not whipped well, it mightn’t, first of all, get  out onto the spoon, or the opposite way, if it’s not stirred enough, it might just float and go down to the bottom of the coffee, so that’s not good either, ‘cause the perfect taste of an Irish Coffee is through the cream, so the cream should always be at the top, so you taste the Irish whiskey through the cream. 

Nothing but the best...

For Irish Coffee safaris in Dublin, the friendly 4-star Brooks Hotel (www.brookshotel.ie) in Drury Street, near Grafton Street, is a great base.
The hotel’s extensive Whiskey Library serves whiskeys ranging from 5 to 80 euros and various Irish Coffees. Adventurous drinkers can ask for a chilli version.
Also in Dublin, the beautiful Merrion Hotel (www.merrionhotel.com) serves a stylish Irish Coffee cocktail. And should you find yourself in San Francisco, head for the Buena Vista Café (www.thebuenavista.com), where Irish Coffee’s American story began.


Cream, Coffee, Brown sugar, Whiskey
Heat a whiskey glass. Pour in 40ml of Irish whiskey. Add one spoon of brown sugar. Fill with strong black coffee. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Top off with whipped cream by pouring it over the back of a teaspoon, so that it floats.  Do not stir after adding the cream! For the best flavour the hot coffee and Irish whiskey are drunk through the cream.


Whiskey. Notate lo spelling: gli irlandesi bevono whiskey, mentre gli scozzesi bevono whisky.

Miserable. In inglese non significa povero o disgraziato, bensì triste e depresso. Povero e disgraziato invece si dice wretched e un miserabile è a wretch.

To get someone to do something. Qui il nostro vecchio amico get significa “costringere” o incoraggiare fortemente. In inglese può essere utile memorizzare un modello grammaticale. To get someone to do something è un classico esempio, e appartiene al gruppo tell someone to do something, ask someone to do something e persuade someone to do something. Il classico testo di grammatica vi spiegherà che si tratta di un verb pattern del tipo verb + object + infinitive, ma è più facile fissare la struttura nella propria mente se si memorizza qualche frase: They could not get the cream to stay on top. She got him to carry all her bags. He told her to get lost. She asked him to help her ecc.

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seaplanes: idrovolanti

storms: tempeste

frozen and miserable: congelati e depressi (v. Speak Up explains)

customers: clienti

recipe: ricetta

they could not get the cream to stay on top: non riuscivano a fare in modo che la panna rimanesse in superficie

has to be poured gently over a spoon: va versata delicatamente sopra un cucchiaio

nearly passed out on the cable car tracks: quasi svenì sulle rotaie del tram

why spoil: perché rovinare


stranded: arenati, isolati (nel corso di un viaggio)

a Paris goblet or a latte glass: un calice o un bicchiere da caffelatte.

according to the customer: a seconda di cosa vuole il cliente

two sugars: due cucchiaini di zucchero

makes the cream level on it: fa sì che la panna vi si appoggi sopra

shot: dose

you stir well: si mescola bene

double cream: panna densa

to make it settle on the top: per far adagiare la panna sulla superficie

you might get different tastes... stages: può capitare di ottenere diversi gusti in diversi momenti

whipped: montata.

it might just float and go down to the bottom: potrebbe galleggiare e poi finire in fondo