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This is how to make an Irish coffee like a pro bartender

The Irish Coffee is a classic drink for the ages — here are some great recipes

The Irish Coffee is a classic drink that’s outlasted any number of trends and movements within the cocktail industry. Better, it’s open to all kinds of interpretation, meaning you can mix a different version up each time you feel in the mood. And since we’re still in winter’s cold grip, the core ingredients of warm coffee and whiskey are even more appealing.

Of the many great hot cocktails and whiskey cocktails on the menu, the Irish Coffee has a big and deserved following. It’s an old beverage showing no signs of slowing down, originally concocted in northern Europe to take on the many grey days of the offseason. We love it around St. Patrick’s Day as well as late in the evening, with decaf plugged into the equation for an ideal nightcap cocktail.

Close up of a man holding an Irish Coffee Mug.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

When in situations like this, we turn to the pros like Alicia Perry, the beverage director of Consortium Holdings. She’s offered us pro tips on making all kinds of cocktails. When it comes to the Irish Coffee, Perry is a big fan.

“I have always personally loved Irish Coffees, especially being an avid coffee drinker,” Perry admits. “When I think of an Irish Coffee, I can’t help but to reminisce about my first experience at Buena Vista in San Francisco. During a given visit I can’t help but to enjoy two-to-three before venturing off back into the city.”

Perry gets creative with her riff, straying from tradition a bit (who says it has to be hot?) but more than making up for it with tons of complementary flavors. “In my efforts to emulate the Irish Coffee during the holiday season, I had to come to terms with the fact that hot coffee was not readily available at my bar,” she says. Instead, she plugs in cold brew and a tantalizing liqueur.

“St George Nola Coffee Liqueur is by far my favorite, it highlights Ethiopian coffee beans and Madagascar vanilla,” she continues.  “Alongside the St. George, Buffalo Trace’s Bourbon cream is just ridiculously decadent and delicious. The duo creates this marriage of flavors that only pointed me in one direction, Bourbon.”

The finishing touch? Well, that goes to the inventive syrup called into action. “In terms of the date syrup, it is a recipe that I have always had in my back pocket, awaiting the right cocktail,” she says. 

Dead Rabbit Irish Coffee cocktail.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Jillian Vose, owner of Hazel & Apple, author, and beverage & spirits consultant, who has worked at NYC venues like The Dead Rabbit and Death & Company, believes it’s all about presentation, balance, and subtlety. 

“When an Irish Coffee is done the right way, it’s a blissful balance of hot and cold and bitter and sweet with neither element outshining another,” says Vose. “I personally love when an Irish Coffee has the right consistency of cream on top. It’s thick enough to sit on top of the liquid, but not so thick it’s hard to drink.”
But how? It’s all about getting things set up beforehand. “For a bartender, the trick is to prepare the sugar syrup and cream ahead of time and then you can easily brew a pot of coffee and execute an exact number,” Vose says. “It’s quite the treat and I always get a positive response.”
Vose adds that ratios are important as well and can spell the difference between a delicious Irish Coffee and a terrible one. “The Dead Rabbit’s current recipe call for only an ounce of whiskey,” Vose says. “Contrary to popular belief, the drink shouldn’t be too boozy. You want the whiskey to be balanced by the coffee and sweetness and not overwhelm the drinker.”
Check out Perry and Vose’s recipes, below, plus a few more just to keep you busy. And long live the Irish Coffee.

Alicia Perry’s Irish Coffee

This recipe is a dandy, using a delicious coffee liqueur and incorporating the earthy notes of dates.


  • 1 part bourbon
  • 3/4 part date syrup*
  • 3/4 part cold brew
  • 3/4 part St George NOLA Coffee Liqueur
  • 1/2 part bourbon cream
  • 1 part cream


*Date Syrup: Bring 1 1/2 pounds pitted dates, 3 liters of water, 3 liters of demerara sugar, and 2 tablespoons of gum arabic to simmer in pot. Allow the dates to break down, the syrup will thicken. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Pull off heat and strain out the dates. Let cool.

  1. Shake all ingredients with ice in tins, strain, and serve over ice in a Collins or tall glass.
  2. Garnish with espresso beans.

The Dead Rabbit Irish Coffee

The Dead Rabbit Irish Coffee.
Liz Clayman

(Created by Jack McGarry of The Dead Rabbit)

An immensely popular drink at The Dead Rabbit, this version is all the rage.


  • 1 ounce Bushmills Original Irish Whiskey
  • 3 1/2 ounces coffee:
  • 2/3 ounce rich demerara-molasses syrup
  • Top with heavy fresh whipped cream


  1. Pour the coffee and sugar syrup into an Irish Coffee glass leaving about half an inch of room for cream.
  2. Top with whipped cream and garnish with a dusting of grated nutmeg.

Tim Herlihy’s Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Coffee

Tim Herlihy’s Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Coffee.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

We love how some extra-strong coffee is perfectly offset by cream and whiskey in this version.


  • 1 1/2 parts Tullamore D.E.W. Original
  • 1 1/2 parts strong brewed coffee (Tim’s Pick: any premium dark roast)
  • 1/2 part sugar (Tim’s Pick: Demerara Sugar)
  • Lightly whipped heavy cream
  • Cinnamon or nutmeg


  1. Pre-heat a clear-stemmed glass with very hot water.
  2. Add the sugar and brewed coffee and stir well.
  3. Once the sugar has melted, stir in the Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey.
  4. Gently whip the heavy cream by shaking it in a protein shaker with a blender ball — you want a still somewhat loose, not stiff consistency.
  5. Pour the cream over the back of a hot teaspoon to top the drink (and prevent the cream from penetrating the top of the drink).
  6. Finally, garnish with grated nutmeg or cinnamon for a spicy finish. 

The OTT (over the top) Irish Coffee

The OTT (over the top) Irish Coffee.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

(Created by Joaquín Simó)

Yep, it’s over the top but that’s the point so indulge and enjoy this take on the Irish Coffee.


  • 1 1/2 ounces Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey
  • 1/4 ounce rich (2:1) demerara syrup
  • 5 ounces hot coffee
  • 5 drops saline solution (or a tiny pinch kosher salt)
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • Cream*
  • Lightly toasted Little Boo Boo Bakery Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey Marshmallow for garnish


*Cream: Mix 5-6 ounces of heavy cream with 2 tablespoons white sugar and 2 dashes Regan’s No. 6 Orange bitters and zest from 1 orange.

  1. Muddle the cardamom pods in the bottom of a pre-heated Irish coffee glass, add whiskey, Demerara syrup, hot coffee, and saline solution, and stir.
  2. Whip the cream with the orange zest, white sugar and Regan’s No. 6 Orange bitters until thickened, but still pourable.
  3. Float cream over the top of the drink by pouring gently over the back of a spoon.

The Teeling Whiskey Irish Coffee

The Teeling Whiskey Irish Coffee.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Blending roasted notes from the coffee and stout syrup with citrus and the caramel qualities of the Irish whiskey, this drink has it all.


  • 40 milliliters  Teeling Irish Whiskey Small Batch
  • 120 milliliters freshly brewed, robust coffee
  • 20 milliliters spiced stout syrup
  • Orange zested cream
  • Grated nutmeg for garnish


  1. Preheat glass with some warm water and discard, add the Teeling Whiskey, stout syrup, and brewed coffee, and stir to combine.
  2. Warm a large spoon and gently pour the cream over the back of the spoon and onto the coffee.
  3. Garnish with a light dusting of grated nutmeg and enjoy with friends!

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Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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