How San Francisco Introduced Irish Coffee to the US

San Francisco played a major role in the popularity of Irish coffee. Although various people and places lay claim to the creation of the creamy libation, the most popular is that it originated at Foynes Airport in Ireland. Foynes, located in County Limerick of Angela’s Ashes fame, was a frequent stop for those flying between Europe and the United States. According to legend, airport employee and Chef Joe Sheridan mixed coffee with a little whiskey, cream and sugar. Then, he offered it weary travelers. They loved it. After tasting it, an American traveler asked Chef Joe: “Hey Buddy, is this Brazilian Coffee?” “No,” Joe exclaimed, “That’s Irish Coffee!” It was an instant hint.

Irish Coffee Comes to San Francisco

The drink made a bigger splash in 1952, when San Francisco-based travel writer Stantan Delaplane convinced his friend, a local hotel owner to feature it in his hotel bar. It took some time to perfect the recipe, but eventually they figured it out. Then, the Buena Vista Hotel, in San Francisco, California, introduced Irish Coffee to America. Americans loved it too. The popularity of the drink soared due to Delaplane’s actions. The Buena Vista Hotel Bar makes upwards of 2000 of the specialty drink every day. Oddly enough, Stantan Delaplane, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, is better known for bringing Irish Coffee to America than for his literary work.

The Buena Vista Hotel, in San Francisco, California, introduced Irish Coffee to America.

How to Make Irish Coffee

Although The Buena Vista Hotel offers what most consider the best American version of Irish Coffee, the drink is available all over California. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, make a cup yourself! Use this recipe:

  1. Pre-warm a coffee mug with boiling water, then, pour it out
  2. Place 2 sugar cubes (2 teaspoons) in the bottom of mug
  3. Pour 4 ounces of coffee into mug and stir
  4. Pour 1 1/2 ounces of whiskey into mug and stir again
  5. Top the mixture with a gentle dollop of floating sweet whipped cream


Jameson or Tullamore Dew taste great in an Irish coffee.

A Few Tips on Making the Perfect Irish Coffee:

  • Take the time to warm the mug. It makes a big difference.
  • Use your favorite Irish Whiskey. Tullamore Dew or Jameson work nicely. Or, pick up a bottle of Green Spot-if you can find it and afford it.
  • Don’t get discouraged. It takes a while to master the floating cream.

This recipe, made famous first in Ireland, then the United States, is one of my favorite St. Patrick’s Day traditions. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Published by Michelle Kratzer

I like to write. I love the ocean. I live for babies and dogs and giggles.

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