This is not supposed to be a tricky cocktail. The idea is simple: Mix coffee, whiskey, sugar and cream. But bartenders find a million ways to sabotage the drink. Cocktail expert Dale DeGroff, who's been making Irish Coffees for decades, explains what can go wrong, and why these nuances matter.
1. Your coffee is too strong—or you're adding too much of it.
"You don't ever want to use espresso. It has its own character, it's very intense and it's too big for the drink. You lose balance, and the whiskey, behind all that intensity. Use fresh beans that are roasted medium. They can be single-sourced beans like Colombian or they can be blends. The coffee absolutely must be sweetened because the cream is not. And without sweetness, the drink ceases to exist because it becomes a bitter mess. Also use no more than four ounces of coffee and an ounce and a half shot."
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2. The whiskey is too heavy.
"Companies are starting to reproduce Irish whiskey styles from the 19th century, which are bigger flavor-wise and often a single-malt. But when it comes to Irish coffee, a big pot-stilled, single-malt style isn't appropriate. A regular blend is fine. That's also why you don't want a 2 and ½ ounce shot of whiskey. The perfect blend is 1½ ounces of whiskey to 4 ounces of coffee. Yes, Jameson's normal bottling is perfect for this. Or Tullamore Dew or Clontarf."