The best Irish coffee recipes can be as simple as putting a splash of Irish whiskey into a flask of hot coffee and calling it a day. Or, it can be a labor of love in which you craft your own spiced syrup or concoct a homemade whipped cream. (Go on, show off.)
While it’s got a lot of room for creativity, an Irish coffee is traditionally stirred with sugar, then gets a collar of cold whipped cream. The type of coffee you use, how you brew it, and the sweeteners you add can all lead to new spins on this classic coffee cocktail that’s believed to have been invented in the 1950s for tired passengers stuck at an Irish airport restaurant.
Buzzy and boozy, these five Irish coffee recipes follow their own set of rules.
Best Irish Coffee Recipes to Reinvent the Classic
1. Spiced Irish Coffee (shown above)
Making your own simple syrup with winter spices is worth the extra step and brings out the complex flavors in the rum cask-finished small batch whiskey, says Rob Caldwell, global ambassador for Teeling Whiskey.
- 2 parts Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey
- 4 parts black coffee
- 1/2 part spiced syrup (see directions below)
- double cream
- grated nutmeg or chocolate (optional)
For Spiced Syrup
- Mix two parts sugar with one part hot water and your favorite spices like cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, anise.
- Pre-heat glass with hot coffee, then add in whiskey and spiced syrup.
- Layer fresh cream using the back of a bar spoon and garnish with grated nutmeg or chocolate (optional).
2. Belfast Coffee
“Earthy, luxurious and sweet, this is the perfect introduction to poitín, Ireland’s once illicit native spirit,” says Dave Mulligan of Bar 1661 in Dublin, Ireland. Poitín was first distilled by monks, then banned by the Brits in 1661, but never really went away. Mad March Hare is made with malted barley that’s been distilled three times in copper pot stills and then cut with Irish spring water. This recipe uses cold brew and a demerara syrup, which is similar to regular ol’ simple syrup but uses demerara sugar, which is a less refined sugar that will lend your cocktail some caramel characteristics.
- 3 oz cold brew coffee
- 2 oz Mad March Hare Irish Poitín
- 1 oz demerara syrup
- hand whipped heavy cream
- To make simple syrup at home, bring demerara sugar and water to a boil at a ratio of 1:1.
- Stir the ingredients in a mixing glass over ice.
- Strain into a chilled footed glass.
- Top with whipped cream and garnish with nutmeg.
3. Proper Frozen Banana Irish Coffee
The secret to a good Irish coffee is a ratio in which the whiskey shines, but doesn’t punch, says Jesse Peterson of Simple Serve in San Diego, California. This blended coffee drink is creamy, smooth, and full of flavor and gives Irish coffee staying power beyond St. Patrick’s Day.
- 1.5 oz Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey,
- 0.5 oz heavy cream
- 0.5 oz brown sugar syrup (1:1)
- 3 oz cold brew coffee
- 1/2 of a ripe banana
- 2 cups of ice
- Combine ingredients in a blender. Add ice and blend until smooth.
- Pour into glass and garnish with instant coffee granules (optional).
4. The Italian Coffee
A dessert cocktail best enjoyed by a fireplace, this Italian spin on Irish coffee has a delicate and rich hazelnut flavor, says Dianne Lowry, beverage director at Macchina in Brooklyn, New York.
- 1.5 oz Arte Italian Malt Whisky
- 6 oz Italian coffee
- 0.25 oz Frangelico
- whipped cream
- crushed hazelnut wafers
- Fill coffee glass or mug with hot water, let sit for 30 seconds to warm, and then discard hot water.
- Measure whisky and Frangelico into your heated glass, then fill with coffee.
- Top with whipped cream and crushed wafers.
5. The Night Owl
Irish coffee, meet tres leches. The star of this cocktail from Reyes Mezcaleria in Orlando, Florida is the Illegal Mezcal Reposado that brings notes of clove, butterscotch, and vanilla.
- 1 oz Illegal Mezcal Reposado
- 1 oz Mr. Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur
- 1 oz cold brew
- 1 oz of evaporated milk, condensed milk, or heavy cream—or a blend of all three. (The restaurant uses its housemade Tres Leches mix).
- Abuelita chocolate (for garnish)
- Combine ingredients in a shaker glass with ice and shake.
- Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with Abuelita chocolate dust.