The list of Irish cocktails is not long, but the most well known and enduring is Irish coffee. First popularized in Ireland at the Shannon Airport, it gained notoriety stateside at San Francisco’s Buena Vista Café in 1952 when owner Jack Koeppler and travel writer Stanton Delaplane set out to recreate the strong, creamy mix of Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey, sugar, hot coffee and cold whipped cream. With such a basic recipe, there is plenty of room for variation. At Grace, a new Manhattan pub named for the Irish pirate Grace O’Mally, bartender Pam Wiznitzer created the Blind Abbot, a chilled, stirred Irish coffee that looks just like the classic hot version but tastes much more complex thanks to the addition of Angostura bitters and an espresso liqueur.
Watch Wiznitzer make her Blind Abbott step-by-step.
“When you think Irish coffee you think hot, but I created this version because cold cocktails are consumed year-round,” Wiznitzer says. “Ever since ice was invented in the early 1900s, we have wanted our cocktails to be cold.” To make the cocktail, Wiznitzer uses a traditional base of Tullamore Dew and cold-pressed coffee instead of adding ice so that there’s no dilution. On top of that she pours Galliano Ristretto, an espresso-based liqueur that adds some additional coffee flavor while kicking up the alcohol content, and cinnamon syrup, which complements the cinnamon notes in the Irish whiskey. A few dashes of Angostura round out the cocktail. The drink is stirred, strained and topped with a creamy layer of freshly whipped or shaken, very cold cream. To finish, Wiznitzer garnishes the cocktail with a grating of cinnamon. Learn how to make the cocktail step-by-step.
Here, more Irish coffee variations.
Irish Chai: In place of coffee, Wiznitzer sometimes likes to use chai. “The cream on top mixes in eventually top and the next thing you know you’re having this incredible chai experience,” she says. To add more flavor, she suggests spicing the cocktail up with an allspice dram or bitters like Dale DeGroff’s Pimento bitters.
Spicy Mezcal Coffee: In the Smoke and Mirrors cocktail at The Winslow in New York, Irish whiskey is replaced with smoky Montelobos mezcal and traditional sugar with agave syrup. Bartenders also add an ounce of Ancho Reyes liqueur, a spicy herbal liqueur made with ancho chiles.
Ultra-Caffeinated Brandy Coffee: At the Los Angeles outpost of The Bazaar, José Andrés’s whimsical culinary center, bartenders make a Spanish take on the Irish cocktail with Gran Duque de Alba brandy, raw brown sugar and both espresso and coffee for a serious kick. The cocktail is topped with freshly whipped heavy cream and grated orange zest.