National Irish Coffee Day
annually on January 25th
Today we warm up with Irish coffee, a drink made with Irish whiskey, hot coffee, heavy or whipped cream, and brown sugar. The drink was created in Ireland during World War II and made its way to America in the 1950s. Usually drank in a stemmed glass, it is now popular around the world.
Foynes Airport in Foynes, Ireland, was one of the biggest airports during World War II. It was a place where flying boats traveling across the Atlantic Ocean docked, and was frequented by passengers from the United States such as Hollywood stars and political figures. In 1943, Brendan O'Regan opened a restaurant in its terminal building and hired Joe Sheridan as the chef. Sheridan invented Irish coffee that year. (Some sources claim the invention, and thus the opening of the restaurant, took place in 1942.)
According to one story, a group of passengers stopped at the restaurant after a treacherous eighteen-hour journey across the Atlantic Ocean from America. Another story says that a plane had left Foynes for New York in bad weather, flew for a few hours, and then had to turn around and return to the airport. It was late so the restaurant was closed, but it reopened when the passengers arrived. According to both versions of the story, Sheridan was asked to make something warm for the passengers, and made coffee and added a little whiskey. Legend has it that one of the passengers asked, "Is this Brazilian coffee?" To which Sheridan replied, "No, that's Irish coffee."
Sheridan continued to serve the drink at Foynes until the war ended in 1945 and the restaurant and airport closed. Sheridan and his staff then moved to the Shannon Airport, across the Shannon Estuary, and kept serving the drink there. It became the airport's official welcoming drink.
The first Irish coffee made in America was made at the Buena Vista Bar in San Francisco. In 1951, Stanton Delaplane, a newspaper writer who focused on travel, had an Irish coffee at the Shannon Airport. He came back to the United States and told Jack Koeppler, the owner of Buena Vista Bar, about it. The two teamed up and tried for months to get the recipe right. They weren't able to perfect the cream, and Koeppler offered Joe Sheridan a job at his bar in 1952. Sheridan accepted, and from there Irish coffee gained popularity across the country. Sheridan passed away in 1962 and is buried in Oakland, California.
How to Observe
Celebrate the day by drinking Irish coffee! There have been many variations of the drink over the years, but the best one for today may be Joe Sheridan's original recipe. If you are up for some travel, you could have one of the original Irish coffees at the Irish Coffee Lounge at the Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum. Another good place to stop at in Ireland to have one is the Irish Whiskey Museum in Dublin. Back in the United States, you could have an Irish coffee at the Buena Vista Bar in San Francisco and then visit Joe Sheridan's grave in Oakland.