The Best Whiskey for Irish Coffee

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.

Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.


  1. Chris on November 1, 2008 at 11:06 am 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. Christopher Null on November 1, 2008 at 4:12 pm

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

  3. Maghnuis on January 23, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    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.


  4. Brian A on July 14, 2009 at 4:52 am

    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 on August 6, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    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. Andrew on November 10, 2009 at 5:32 am

    Powers is the standard choice for irish coffee in Ireland

  7. Alex on March 5, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    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. eGaTS on November 18, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    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. Christopher Null on November 18, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    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. Omega2010 on December 16, 2010 at 2:52 am

    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. Curtis on March 2, 2011 at 1:56 pm

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

  12. Dave on December 10, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    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. Anonymous on May 9, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    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

  14. [email protected] on June 11, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    At the Greenleaves cafe in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, back in 1987 or so, I had an irish coffee that was made with Seagrams Seven Crown. As least as good as Powers, more bite, and about half the cost.

  15. Chuck Q on August 10, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    I lived in Ireland 3 years, ’78 – ’81. I served Irish Coffee numerous times to my Irish guests in my home. I used Black Bush. Black Bush, a little sugar, coffee, and floated whipped cream (with sugar and vanilla in it) on top. My Irish Coffee became well know for the best my guests had the pleasure of experiencing.

  16. Sam on December 9, 2019 at 6:38 am

    You are all wrong. Italians have been drinking “Irish” coffee since alcohol was first distilled from grain. They used espresso coffee. About 1 oz of espresso and 1 oz of any alcohol or any whiskey that is available and sugar to taste. No worry about not being able to get to sleep due to the caffeine.?. (Actually espresso has less caffeine than regular coffee due to the longer roasting time)

  17. Barry Fyfe on February 10, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    Have to agree that powers is the go to whiskey for an Irish coffee, but standard bushmills works well also.
    The type of cream is important as well, I use double cream slightly whipped so that it sits well atop the drink.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.