When Was Irish Coffee Invented?

Irish coffee is a mixed drink made with coffee and Irish whiskey. When was Irish coffee invented? Read on to find out more. 

When Was Irish Coffee Invented
Irish coffee was born one stormy winter night in Foynes Port, near Limerick, Ireland during WWll

Irish coffee, a delicious coffee mixed drink, was invented in 1943. Irish coffee is a combination of coffee, Irish whiskey, and whipped cream

A few years later, Irish coffee exploded in popularity in the United States, thanks to the purveyors of the Buena Vista Hotel in San Francisco. Keep reading to learn more about the origin story of Irish coffee.

Stormy Origins

As the legend goes, Irish coffee was born one stormy winter night in Foynes Port, near Limerick, Ireland. During World War II, the Shannon Airport at Foynes Port had become an essential stop for travelers between Europe and North America. On that evening, a passenger airplane bound for New York had to turn back to Foynes Port due to the bad weather. 

Head Chef of Shannon Airport, Joe Sheridan, decided to hand out drinks to the weary travelers, preparing coffee with whiskey, sugar, and cream to warm them up. The story says that one passenger asked, “Is this Brazilian coffee?” to which Joe Sheridan replied, “No, it’s Irish coffee!” 

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Irish Coffee’s Rise in San Francisco

a cup of Irish coffee on a wooden table with coffee beans and a piece of cloth
The world-famous Irish coffee gained massive popularity because of Stanton and Jack

Joe Sheridan’s concoction soon became a staple at the Foynes Port airport. After WWII, an American travel writer named Stanton Delaplane brought this drink to the United States when he helped Jack Koeppler, the Buena Vista Hotel owner of San Francisco, recreate it

Stanton and Jack tried to master Joe Sheridan’s creation but had trouble getting the cream to float. After many failed experiments, Jack even visited Joe in Ireland to see how to make it correctly. But it wasn’t until Jack worked with the then-mayor of San Francisco, who was also a dairy farmer, to solve the sinking cream debacle.

Thanks to the tenacity of Stanton and Jack and the Buena Vista Hotel’s creation, Irish coffee saw a massive rise in popularity and took off. The Buena Vista Hotel is now well-known for its world-famous Irish coffee. 

Not the First Coffee Cocktail

However, Irish coffee was not the first coffee cocktail. Europeans had been mixing coffee and alcohol for over a hundred years before Joe Sheridan’s invention. Viennese coffee houses and German and Danish cafes were also known to serve their hot coffee and spirit combinations. 

In addition, there are now many variations on the classic Irish coffee that are popular around the world. For example, in Spain, Irish coffee is served without mixing the coffee, whiskey, and cream, so these three ingredients stay as separate layers. 

Irish coffee is often served as an iced coffee, whiskey cocktail, sometimes even without cream in Asia. When added to coffee, Baileys Irish Cream can also be considered a variant of the classic Irish coffee. 

No matter how you drink it, there are many different variations possible for traditional Irish coffee. With it being so easy to make and with so many options for the three main ingredients, the possibilities are endless! If you like this post, you might be interested in learning if you can vape coffee. If you like Irish coffee, you might be interested in learning what the best cream for Irish coffee is.

Making Irish Coffee at Home

a cup of Irish coffee being mixed with milk froth
You can sweeten your Irish coffee with your own preference

Irish coffee is a simple, rich, sweet drink that is easy to try at home! 

All you need is:

To make Irish coffee:

  1. Brew your coffee. Fresh-brewed, darker roasts are best for this recipe. 
  2. Add the Irish whiskey to a mug or glass cup. 
  3. Sweeten your drink to your preference using brown sugar or maple syrup, and bend in with the whiskey.
  4. Add coffee to your mug or cup, gently stirring as you go. 
  5. Top off your drink with whipped cream and enjoy!


  • Aisling O'Connor

    Aisling is an Irish food and drinks writer and journalist fueled by coffee and herbal tea. She followed up her journalism degree with nutrition studies. Find Aisling on LinkedIn.