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Issue 53 - Irish Coffee

Whisky Magazine Issue 53
January 2006


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Irish Coffee

Ian Wisniewski on a winter favourite

Before cappuccino, espresso, latte and macchiato became part of our daily vocabulary, the ultimate choice was an Irish coffee rather than anything Italian.

An inspired combination of Irish whiskey, coffee and cream, one sip could take you straight to that special place.

However, once other options of coffee fortified with spirits appeared on the scene, Irish coffee became a mere example of the genre, rather than being definitive. But then that's often the price of success.

While classic drinks usually have a disputed provenance, with a choice of possible datelines and contenders vying for authorship, there's just one factual story behind the creation of Irish coffee.

When trans-Atlantic flights began, the aircraft were either flying boats or super constellations. These got you there, but not in one go, as refuelling stops were an inevitable part of the journey.

The last stop before crossing the Atlantic and reaching Gander in Newfoundland, was Foynes, on the river Shannon in County Limerick, south-western Ireland. Rather than an entirely pragmatic interlude, passengers disembarked during refuelling, and were able to take refreshments in the airport bar.

One particular flight during the winter of 1942 left Foynes on schedule, but soon had to return there, due to adverse weather (which all trans-Atlantic flights were dependent on).

At least the disappointed passengers were catered for by the chief barman, Joe Sheridan.

He decided to offer them coffee rather than the usu...

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