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home : columnists : sunday cocktail March 29, 2017

3/1/2017 10:00:00 AM
Top of the morning to you with Irish Coffee
by Brian Rung

Top of the morning to you! Would you like some Irish whiskey in your coffee? Another round of Guinness? Much to the delight of bar owners and patrons alike, Saint Patrick's Day falls on a Friday in 2017.

More than 125 million Americans will celebrate the Feast of Saint Patrick on March 17 despite the fact that there are only 37 million people of Scotch-Irish descent living in the United States according to the Census Bureau.

Many early morning "pub crawls" will be held throughout the country in conjunction with annual parades, so why not join the fun and start your day with an Irish Coffee?

For generations coffee drinkers around the world have been adding Jameson to their coffee and calling it "Irish Coffee." Simply adding whiskey to your coffee does not make it Irish coffee. There is an official recipe. In fact, the recipe for Irish Coffee is so "official" that in 1988 the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) issued a Standard Specification Declaration for Irish Coffee.

What is contained in that declaration? I couldn't tell you as the NSAI charges about $23 dollars to pull the record. We are going to use the most accepted traditional Irish Coffee recipe using coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar and heavy cream.

There are only a few rules that must be followed when making Irish Coffee. The first - and this is a must - Irish Coffee uses Irish whiskey.

Second, brown sugar is best in Irish Coffee. Use brown sugar even if you take cane sugar in your daily coffee.

Third, do not use milk or half-and-half in Irish Coffee. Use a heavy, lightly whipped cream. Heavier creams will float, lighter cream will not. Do not stir in the cream as this cocktail is designed to be drunk through the top layer of cream.

Finally, since coffee is the main ingredient, you will want to use a quality coffee. You're wide open on the coffee selection so long as it's fresh-brewed.

Fans of Irish whiskey are similar to fans of Scotch whiskey in that both camps believe that their respective whiskies should be enjoyed "neat".

As enjoyable as both offerings as stand-alone drinks, both Scotch and Irish whiskey are excellent mixers. Typically the blended whiskeys of the Scotland and Ireland (such as Jameson) will be smoother and better suited to mixing.

I like to think of Irish whiskey as a happy medium between Scotch and the American whiskies. The Irish variety will not be as harsh as a heavily peated Scotch, but will have a slightly more of a bite than its American counterparts.

If you buy only one bottle of Irish whiskey in your lifetime, make it a bottle of Jameson. Introduced in 1780, Jameson was originally one of the Six Main Dublin Whiskeys.

The company has faced many political and economic challenges over the last two centuries, the most significant events being American prohibition and the Irish War of Independence.

The economic fallout from the Irish War of Independence nearly crippled the company when the British denied the Jameson distillery the ability to export whiskey to the Commonwealth.

American prohibition began shortly after the British export ban, denying Jameson access to their biggest market. The company has done more than merely survive through all of the turmoil of the last 200 years, in 2016 the folks at Irish Distillers managed to sell over 30 million bottles of their blended whiskey.

Are there other great Irish whiskeys? You bet there are, but Jameson is one of the most versatile spirits that you can add to your home bar. Jameson is smooth enough to enjoy any way that you take your whiskey, but never overpowering in your favorite whiskey cocktail.

Some of my other favorites from The Emerald Isle are Bushmills, Paddy, Tullamore Dew and Readbreast.

When ordered in a restaurant, your Irish Coffee will likely contain a shot of Bailey's Irish Cream and possibly whipped cream, chocolate and cinnamon topping.

As delicious as all of those things may be, they do not belong in a proper Irish Coffee. If you're going to do that, please don't do it on the Feast of Saint Patrick.

The Irish Coffee is built and served your favorite coffee mug.

Combine in coffee mug:

1.5 oz Irish whiskey.

1 tsp brown sugar.

6 oz freshly brewed coffee.

Stir ingredients to dissolve brown sugar.

Top with layer of unsweetened cream, lightly whipped.

To create a layer of cream, pour the cream over the back of a warm metal spoon allowing the cream to float on top of the coffee.

Until next week, enjoy responsibly.

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