07 March, 2012

Tastely Tuesday: Irish Coffee

I'm hard at work on manuscript revisions, staying up late trying to fit everything into a twenty-four hour day. But since this is March, I have a solution to the problem: Irish Coffee.

It has all four food groups required by writers: coffee/caffeine to keep you awake, sugar to keep you going, cream to protect your stomach from all the caffeine, and whiskey to keep you smiling.

The origin of the Irish Coffee is widely disputed. The original, according to my Irish sources, was invented and named by a chef at Foynes, in County Limerick, known today as Shannon International Airport. As the story goes, the chef added whiskey (Irish, of course) to the coffee served to disembarking passengers on a miserable, rainy night. After the passengers asked if they were being served Brazilian coffee, the chef told them it was Irish coffee.

Many Americans associate the drink with the Buena Vista on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. In 1952, then owner Jack Koeppler, and international travel writer Stanton Delaplane, set out to re-create the highly touted brew served in Shannon. Judging from the number of glasses they sell every night, the experiment was a huge success.

Whatever the truth, Irish Coffee should be part of everyone's repertoire.

As I mentioned, Irish coffee requires only four ingredients; coffee, cream, sugar, and whiskey. The final taste is affected by the strength of the coffee, the type of whiskey you use, the way you add the cream, whether you use brown or white sugar and, of course, the proportions of each ingredient.

Irish coffee is often served in a 6-ounce stemmed glass, but I favour an 8-ounce, tempered glass mug with a handle: more to drink and after two or three, you'll be thankful for the handle.

The basics steps to make Irish coffee are as follows:
1.    Warm the glass. Fill the mug with hot water and leave it there while preparing the cream.
2.    Prepare the cream. The object is to get the cream to float on top of the coffee. This is easiest if you thicken the cream by whipping it with a whisk, ever so slightly. Splurge and use heavy cream or "double" cream if you can find it. Do not, under any circumstance, use an aerosol can of whipped cream. Place a spoon in the mug (this helps absorb some of the heat and prevents shattering).
3.    Fill the mug 2/3 full of good quality (not flavoured) coffee.
4.    Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of brown sugar and stir. The sugar helps the cream float, so even it you usually skip sugar, use it here.
5.    Add 1 ½ ounces of Whiskey (Bushmill's Original or Jameson's are good choices).
6.    Top with prepared cream. This is the critical step. You must pour heavy cream over the back of a spoon so that about ½ inch of cream floats on top of the coffee. You actually drink the coffee through the cream. You are not meant to blend the two layers together.
7.    Optional: If it's St. Paddy's day, add a drizzle of green Crème de Menthe over the top. Not as bad as it sounds.


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