With St. Patrick's Day taking place Monday, many will be reaching for a mug of Irish coffee to toast the holiday this weekend. After all, who can resist the alluring combination of "sweet, whiskey-laced coffee through softly-whipped, unsweetened cream?"
That being said, not all cups are created equal.
"At my first bartending job, I was a daytime bartender at a well-known chain restaurant," said David Shenaut, head bartender of Raven & Rose restaurant in Portland, Ore. "We took a lump of sugar, put it in the bottom of a heated glass, added a shot of cheap Irish whisky, and filled it with 6-hour-old, burned, watery drip coffee from the hot plate. Then we topped it with "whipped topping" from the spray can. I remember tasting it and thinking it was gross. 'Why would anyone want this?'"
Years later, an intensive spirits seminar with renowned mixologists David Wondrich and Dale Degroff inspired Shenaut to change his tune.
"Degroff made us an Irish Coffee, and I tasted it as he was explaining the history of the drink, how it should be built, and why it is so delicious," said Shenaut. "It was a revelation for me."
Now Shenaut serves seasonal variations of Irish coffee at Raven & Rose all year round. Here he shares five of his favorite recipes to help upgrade your own at home.
|Classic Irish Coffee|
"The Irish Coffee, like the daiquiri, is a drink that causes an automatic "Oh, I don't like that" reaction in some people," said Shenaut. "But once people try it, they can't help but be excited about it."
Raven & Rose Classic Irish Coffee Recipe: Heat Irish coffee glass, add 1.5 oz John Powers whiskey and .75 oz 2:1 brown sugar syrup. Top with freshly-pulled espresso shot, then 1.5 oz boiling water. Float softly-whipped, unsweetened cream on top to rim of glass. Garnish with three coffee beans.
|Black Irish Mocha|
"I think the Irish Coffee is great any time you would have coffee - breakfast, lunch, happy hour on a cold day by the fire or a warm day out on the patio," said Shenaut. "Pretty much all the time."
Black Irish Mocha Recipe: Heat a coffee cup with hot water. Pour 1.5 oz Jameson Black Barrel Whiskey and 0.5 oz creme de menthe into hot cup, add freshly-pulled espresso shot. In a small metal pitcher, mix 1.5 oz milk, 0.5 oz cream, and .75 oz chocolate syrup. Steam until frothy. Pour steamed milk on top of espresso. Garnish with a spring of fresh mint, when available and in season.
"This version was inspired by a Colorado Bulldog," he said. "As for pairing it with food, you can't beat a brunch starting with our hot, fried-to-order glazed donuts dipped in coffee creme anglaise, followed by a Full Irish breakfast. A meal like that might require two rounds."
Irish Wolfhound Recipe: Pour 1.5 oz Jameson Irish Whiskey, .75 oz Kahlua and 2 dashes Lactart into a chilled ice cream soda glass. Add 3 scoops of vanilla ice cream. Pour cola directly over the top of the ice cream to build tall, foamy, icy head. Serve with a straw and a long spoon.
|The Golden Fleece|
Iced coffee lovers, this one's for you.
The Golden Fleece Recipe: Pour 1 oz Jameson Gold, .75 oz dry Curacao, 2 dashes lactart, and 1 oz cold-brew coffee into a chilled footed pilsner glass over ice. Agitate and top with seltzer. Garnish with orange twist, serve with a straw.
For caffeine-free types, Shenaut offers a drink "that is very Irish but doesn't include coffee," he said. "It's called the Ballycotton Toddy, named after a city in Ireland near where Raven & Rose's owner went to culinary school." And it even includes Irish moss.
Ballycotton Toddy Recipe: Mix 1.25 oz Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey, 0.5 oz creme de cassis, 0.5 oz 2:1 honey syrup, 0.75 oz carrageen moss extract with allspice*, 0.75 oz lemon juice, and 2 oz boiling water in a small metal pitcher. Steam with espresso steam wand to create a foamy head. Serve in warmed Irish coffee glass with freshly grated cinnamon over the top.
*For Carrageen moss extract with allspice: In a saucepan, soak 7g dried Carrageen seaweed in 30 oz of tepid water for 10 minutes. It will soften and swell. Add 10 whole allspice berries and put over medium heat to bring barely to a boil. Simmer gently for 20 minutes. Strain off the solids and store the gelatinous liquid in a glass bottle or jar in the refrigerator.