When it comes to putting stuff in my coffee, I'm a bit of a purist. If you've read my posts before and/or you're good with picking up intent from blog titles, you may have deduced that I pretty much always take my coffee black and prefer my espresso straight. Both, if of high caliber, need no additive to make them delicious.
But as proud descendant of the Irish, I occasionally will bend for a bit of whiskey and cream in my brew. Of course it's not because I find whiskey offensive alone (quite the opposite); it's more that the mixture of a correctly concocted Irish coffee makes for a delicious after-dinner treat. And even though it's near impossible to find a well-made Irish coffee out at eateries (mostly still due to the lack of good beans in restaurants), fortunately there's no true limit to what a coffee enthusiast can do in the confines of their home coffee bar.
To that end, in honor of St. Patrick's Day, I sought to truly explore what Irish coffee could be. I recently set out to try out some different combinations in the space of my kitchen and with the help of Powers Whiskey, Concannon Irish Whiskey, Gorilla Coffee and Cafe Grumpy, I began the exploration.
Of course, the components should be noted separately. I tried out both coffees straight (in the name of science!) and was pleased with the results. From Gorilla Coffee, I sampled their Gishamwana Rwanda, a rich coffee that held notes of cocoa, raisin, orange and thyme within a creamy, medium body. From Cafe Grumpy, I chose their Santa Teresa Dipilto, Nueva Segovia Nicaragua, a delightful coffee that doled out dark chocolate, citrus, light merlot and some light nuttiness amid a supple medium body. To put it plain, both coffees proved delicious on their own and each held the perfect combination of chocolate and bright complexity to compliment the whiskey.
As for the whiskeys, having deep appreciation for a good glass of whiskey served neat, I tried out both separately as well. Powers held notes of vanilla, caramel and some light sage with a noticeably heavier body than most other whiskeys I've had. Concannon proved a little lighter in essence but proved tasty with notes of pound cake, butterscotch, orange juice and a slight smokiness. Neither drink was the best whiskey ever but their agreeable components coupled with their very affordable price tag swiftly nominate both as great whiskeys for Irish coffee.
Now knowing what I was working with, I went to work. I performed multiple trials, using different ratios of a simple recipe of brown sugar, coffee, whiskey and home-made thick cream (i.e. not fully whipped so it's pourable). In the end, I found a great recipe for someone looking for a just-so-sweet Irish Coffee.
As for the different components, I found they all worked splendidly together. Both coffees provided a silky and cocoa-ish backbone to furnish the sweet, vanilla and bright flavors of either whiskey. Especially with the cream floating on the top to provide the correct trademark taste (remember to pour the thick cream onto the back of a spoon), I found my final recipe a home run (note that it's nothing ground breaking; just minor differences from the original):
- 6 oz. of quality coffee brewed a touch stronger (i.e. add about 2-4 ounces to your usual dosage to accommodate for the upcoming dilution)
- 2 tsp. of brown sugar
- 1.5 oz. of whiskey
- Freshly and lightly whipped heavy cream
- Preheated mug (heat your mug by letting hot water sit in it)
1. Brew your coffee in the desired method (I recommend pourover or siphon to keep a cleaner cup), using 2-4 grams more of coffee than usual to make the coffee more potent.If you're on the lookout for whiskey well-suited for Irish coffee, look to Powers Whiskey or Concannon Irish Whiskey for your spirit. As for the coffee, since the two above won't be around forever, make sure to choose a high quality, well-roasted, sweet dessert-like coffee.
2. Add the brown sugar to the empty mug and then pour in the hot coffee. Stir lightly.
3. Add whiskey.
4. Using the back of a spoon, lightly pour the thick cream over the top the spoon to make the cream float on top (this aspect of the cream is not only a necessity of custom but also a linchpin in the taste of the drink as the other components must pass through the cream on the way to the mouth).
note: coffee and whiskey was provided mostly free of charge and the above article is objective feedback.