The Best Whiskey for Irish Coffee

Alex writes: What’s the best whiskey for Irish Coffee?

Good question. I sampled all the Irish I had on hand in coffee and it was a tossup between the standard bottlings of Bushmills and Jameson. The only Irish that didn’t work well was Black Bush, which just didn’t play right with the bitterness of the coffee.

Whiskey easily gets lost in this drink. In truth, the flavor is far more affected by the type of coffee you use, whether you use sugar and how much, and how much whiskey you add to it than it is by trying to choose between Bushmills and Jameson. Get whichever is cheaper that day.

And just so we have it all in one place, here’s the classic recipe for Irish Coffee (though it has almost infinite variations, which I’ve tried to incorporate below).

Irish Coffee
Hot coffee
1 1/2 oz. Irish whiskey
sugar to taste
1 oz. cream or milk

To a mug of coffee ad the whiskey, sugar as desired, and top with cream or milk (floating it by pouring over the back of a spoon). Alternately top with whipped cream. Sprinkle nutmeg, cinnamon, or chocolate on top if desired.

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13 Responses to The Best Whiskey for Irish Coffee

  1. http://www.coffeegeek.com/opinions/mixologist/11-04-2006 is one of the better articles I’ve read on Irish Coffee – the visual walk through is really good. In their advanced drink build, they recommend using Redbreast 12 year as the base spirit. I’ve tried that one myself, and really enjoy the vanillla sweetness it adds to the drink.

  2. On that front, try dark rum or bourbon in your coffee for an interesting twist.

  3. It is a sin against God and nature to dilute Redbreast with coffee.
    In my experience and that of every bartender I’ve visited in Ireland ( which is sadly slightly less than a hundred) it is Powers whiskey that goes in Irish coffee.
    Tho Powers is fine to drink by itself, it best defines an Irish coffee.

    Slainte

  4. I had an irish coffee at the Buena Vista Bar (San Francisco, CA), where the first irish coffee in the USA was served. They used Tullamore Dew, and it worked beautifully for the drink.

  5. Kevin Miguel

    OMG you guys are so anal. ANY whiskey will do. ANY coffee will do, even instant. You can act like an overaged bachelor and say that you need vietnamese chivet coffee beans using an aeropress or espresso machine, along with a high-grade scotch, and maybe some half-and half or better yet, vietnamese condensed milk, but life is short. Taster’s Choice instant. Coffeemate creamer. Splenda packets. Tap water. Jim Beam Whiskey.

    By the way, Trung Nguyen’s Legendee whole bean coffee is to die for. Use the aeropress, forget the french press or espresso machines.

  6. Powers is the standard choice for irish coffee in Ireland

  7. I agree with most of the comments here: Powers is what is used in any bar that knows what they are doing; the dumbest thing you could do with Redbreast is to put it in coffee; and as long as you enjoy the taste of whatever coffee you are using, you’ll probably enjoy that coffee with whiskey in it. To think that coffee isn’t blasting your palate into oblivion is ridiculous: if you’re going to be a snob about the whiskey and want to actually taste it, don’t put it in coffee!

    The secret to a really good Irish Coffee: a dash of Brandy, homemade simple syrup, Powers and coffee.

  8. I love the suggestions… just curious though: what would be the advantage of using simple syrup instead of sugar? The drink is already hot. I thought the purpose of simple syrup was to get sugar to dissolve in cold drinks.

  9. Granulated sugar doesn’t dissolve all the way in coffee, either, especially if you use a lot. I doubt there would be a huge difference, though.

  10. I’m actually a little surprised because that coffeegeek article mentions using the 15 year old Redbreast (which only arrived on American shores this year) in an Irish Coffee not the 12 year old. Now I’m perfectly fine with using the 12 year old because it does make a tasty Irish Coffee but the 15 year old is something best tasted by itself (not to mention the fact that it’s a bit of an expensive option for Irish Coffee).

  11. Add an small amount of salt to take the bitterness away…

  12. I use brown sugar and, so far, Jameson. About 2:1 coffee to whiskey seems to work best to my taste. At first I put too much coffee in; a little less coffee lets the whiskey flavor come through just a bit.

  13. In Shannon, Irland, where Irish coffee was first made on a rainy,cold night at the airport, they used Poners Irish Wiskey. Poners can not be bought out side of Irland. This drink was made for the first time around 1940 or a little after

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