A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 17, 2007
Irish Coffee (Gaelic Coffee)

New York City has many Irish immigrants, but San Francisco claims the introduction of Irish coffee into America.

San Francisco’s Buena Vista Cafe’s website states that writer Stanton Delaplane brought Irish coffee to the Buena Vista on November 10, 1952, and the drink has been served there ever since. However, Irish coffee has been cited in newspapers from December 1945 and February 1946. both referring to the coffee at Ireland’s Shannon Airport.

Irish coffee contains whiskey. Joseph Sheridan, the head chef at Ireland’s Shannon Airport, is credited with serving the drink in the early 1940s and popularizing it to the world. He called the drink “Gaelic coffee.”

Irish actor and musician Alex Levine joked that Irish coffee contains the four essential food groups: “alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat.”

“Joe O’Malley” is an infrequently used lunch counter slang for Irish coffee.


Wikipedia: Irish coffee
A classic Irish coffee consists of hot coffee, Irish whiskey, and sugar, with double cream whipped until it begins to stiffen, floated on top. Irish coffee can be considered to be a variation on the hot toddy.

The original Irish coffee, or so the lore would have it, was invented at Foynes by Mr. Joseph Sheridan, the head chef there. (Foynes was the precursor to Shannon Airport in the west of Ireland). The coffee was conceived as a warmer for trans-Atlantic travelers in the 1940s.

Stanton Delaplane, travel writer for the San Francisco Chronicle claimed to have brought Irish coffee to the U.S. when he convinced the Buena Vista bar in San Francisco to start serving Irish coffee on November 10, 1952. Since then, the Buena Vista has become famous for its Irish coffee.

The Buena Vista (San Francisco)
THE IRISH COFFEE STORY
The historic venture started on the night of November the 10th in 1952. Jack Koeppler, then-owner of the Buena Vista, challenged international travel writer Stanton Delaplane to help re-create a highly touted “Irish Coffee” served at Shannon Airport in Ireland. Intrigued, Stan accepted Jack’s invitation, and the pair began to experiment immediately.

Throughout the night the two of them stirred and sipped judiciously and eventually acknowledged two recurring problems. The taste was “not quite right,” and the cream would not float. Stan’s hopes sank like the cream, but Jack was undaunted. The restaurateur pursued the elusive elixir with religious fervor, even making a pilgrimage overseas to Shannon Airport.

Upon Jack’s return, the experimentation continued. Finally, the perfect-tasting Irish whiskey was selected. Then the problem of the bottom-bent cream was taken to San Francisco’s mayor, a prominent dairy owner. It was discovered that when the cream was aged for 48 hours and frothed to a precise consistency, it would float as delicately as a swan on the surface of Jack’s and Stan’s special nectar.

Success was theirs! With the recipe now mastered, a sparkling clear, six-ounce, heat-treated goblet was chosen as a suitable chalice.

Soon the fame of the Buena Vista’s Irish Coffee spread throughout the land. Today, it’s still the same delicious mixture, and it’s still the same clamorous, cosmopolitan Buena Vista. Both…delightful experiences.

14 January 1940, New York (NY) Times, pg. X3.
“‘There’s only one thing worse than Irish coffee,’ he says. ‘American tea.’”
(Not the whiskey kind of “Irish coffee”—ed.)

9 December 1945, The Sunday Star (Washington, DC), “Overnight by Air to a Weary England” by I. William Hill, pg. C-1, col. 5:
(At Shannon Airport.—ed.)
Finally, if you’re up to it, there’s Irish or Gaelic coffee—a delectable combination of one part Irish whisky, two parts hot coffee, with a touch of sugar and topped by a good half inch of thick double cream. Stir the whole, drink at a swallow and you’re as good-natured as any Irishman.

24 February 1946, Boston (MA) Sunday Globe,, “A Letter From a Boston Fashion Director Aboard the First Commercial Flight From Boston to Paris by Air” by Harriet Wilinksy, pg. D9, col. 4:
(At Shannon Airport.—ed.)
I’m told I made a great mistake not ordering Irish coffee, which has been described as pure brew, spike with a bit of Irish whisky and topped with an inch thick layer of pure heavy cream.

17 March 1948, New York )NY) Herald Tribune, Clementine Paddleford column, pg. ?, col. 6:
A recipe for Irish coffee, the traditonal Gaelic drink as served to passengers in the lounge at Shannon Airport. A thank-you to Maureen Grogan, Pan American Airways gound hostess, for the recipe: Place two tablespoons of Irish whisky in a warm glass, add one teaspoon sugar, pour in the hot coffee and float two inches of whipped cream. Sip and the whiskey laces through coffee, through cream.

9 February 1950, Charleston (WV) Gazette, “On the Line” by Bob Considine, pg. 6, col. 2:
SHANNON AIRPORT, Ireland, Feb. 8.—(INS)—Capt. Al Mackrille let our big TWA Constellation down through the swirling pre-dawn rain at Ireland’s International airport, and in a few minutes those of us on this Holy Year junket were sampling our first bit of Irish hospitality.

The bit turned out to be “Irish coffee,” a brew to which even a lifelong teetotaler like myself could become accustomed quickly.

It is a strong, hot coffee laced with Irish whisky and topped by a collar of whipped cream. It is like being kicked by a mule with a velvet hoof. 

17 March 1950, Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK), pg. 19, col. 1:
Irish apple cake and Irish coffee innocently floating whipped cream but firmly founded on a jouncy jigger of Irish whisky. 

20 October 1950, Austin (TX) Statesman, pg. 6, col. 6:
Irish Coffee,
Fixed Right—
It’s “Perfect”
by Frederick C. Othman
United Features Syndicate

EN ROUTE, Oct. 20—You ever tried Irish coffee at 4 a.m. on a cold and rainy night in Shannon? You haven’t lived.

I’m rolling across Newfoundland at this writing on a TWA Constellation and I’m still smacking my lips over that astonishing nectar the Irish provided at their snug little airport a few hours and one ocean ago. The recipe is simple:

You take a water goblet with a long stem so you’ll have something to hold on to. Into the bottom of it you sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar. On this you pour a jigger of Irish whiskey. You stir it. Then you fill the glass to within a half inch of the top with strong, black coffee.

ON TO THIS MIXTURE, carefully so it won’t mix, you ladle stiff sweet cream to the brim. That does it. Now you sip appreciatively and silently thank the Irish for inventing such a brew to warm the inner man and quell the terrors of the night.

8 June 1952, Chicago Daily Tribune, “Tribune Travelers’ Guide: Ireland Puts a Lot fo Beauty in Little Space” by James Doyle, pg. F17:
The Irish also do not serve elaborate dishes garnished with cunning sauces. But Irish food is in the top European class—succulent grills, tender steaks, fresh-water salmon straight from the river, and Irish coffee, black, with a jigger of Irish whiskey, sugar and thick cream on top.

17 March 1953, Syracuse (NY) Herald-Journal, pg. 18, col. 6:
The Distinctive Irish touch in cookery was demonstrated in New York this week by Maura Laverty, often called the outstanding authority on Irish cooking.
(...)
As for the after-dinner beverage, Gaelic coffee, this is for Hibernians or folks with strong muscles only. Gaelic coffee is simply double-strength black coffee with a shot of Irish whisky in it. 

17 March 1954, Portsmouth (NH) Herald, “The Luck of the Irish” by Stanton Delaplane, pg. 4:
Irish coffee has become a noble experiment in San Francisco these days. I claim a modest share in this since I ruined a bottle of the best John Powers trying to make the cream float.

For some reason the cream floats beautifully in Dublin. But for me in the States it sinks. 

7 March 1955, Reno (NV) Evening Gazette, “A Postcard From Stan Delaplane,” pg. 4:
But he (Pat Moriarty, whose saloon had just announced “Irish Coffee Royal”—ed.) leaned on me heavily while he asked how they sold so much Irish coffee in San Francisco.

I said I figured San Francisco people had gone a little daffy on the subject. Gaelic coffee is a standard in Ireland. Irish whiskey and coffee, topped with floating cream.

About a year ago, they started serving it in a San Francisco waterfront bar called the Buena Vista. From about a bottle a month, Irish whiskey consumption went up to three cases a day.

17 March 1955, Reno (NV) Evening Gazette, “A Postcard from Stan Delaplane,” pg. 4:
The news that Mr. Pat Moriarty’s Chophouse on Sixth Avenue in New York is serving “Irish Coffee Royal” brought Mr. Joe Sheridan to my door.

“It brought me out of hiding as you might say,” said Mr. Sheridan. “Irish coffee royal indeed!”

Mr. Sheridan is the inventor of Irish or Gaelic coffee. This brew of coffee, Irish whiskey and afloat of thick cream has been slowly spreading across the United States.

I ran into it first at rainy Shannon airport. It appears on all Irish menus. It spread to San Francisco, to the Hotel Sherman in Chicago, to the Mapes in Reno.

“I’ve not the pleasure of being acquainted with Mr. Moriarty,” said Mr. Sheridan. But it’s Irish coffee to be sure and not Irish coffee royal.

“Now I invented it in the old days when the flyin’ boats were coming to Foynes in Ireland. They were havin’ a celebration liked for the new lines and they wanted a drink with a warm glow to it.

“There’s some say that I put the whiskey in to take away from the taste of the horrible Irish coffee. But that’s not true. It was a drink I took myself every morning for my hangover. I put a little whiskey in the coffee.

“I don’t drink now,” said Mr. Sheridan, “for it became bad for the health and I couldn’t do it financially. As a matter of fact I’m a member of the AA, a backsliding one in a way. For sometimes I’ve gone for a good one and worked my way from the elegant Hotel St. Francis down to Skid Row and back again.

“I brought my friends from the St. Francis down to Skid Road,” said Mr. Joe Sheridan. “But the St. Francis objected when I brought my friends from Skid Road up to the St. Francis.”

Mr. Joe Sheridan is a chef. He has been chef at Shannon and at Waikiki and presently at Place Pigalle in San Francisco.

“Now I’ve kept under cover while the Irish coffee thing was beginning in the United States,” he said, “until I could see which way the wind blows.

“I’m in hopes that it will go through the hotels down to the bars. For it’s better for Irish whiskey that way and Ireland bein’ my country, I want it all for the best.

I asked Mr. Sheridan if he had a preference in Irish whiskey for the makings.

“In the old days, I used John Powers or John Jamison’s. It was served in the best hotels in Ireland and was drunk by the elite of Ireland. Now in those days, William of Tullamore was a small concern and was not used by high class people. The O’Regans would never dream of it.

“But now I see Tullamore Dew has gone out and captured the export trade in many places. For their effort I’d give them a recommendation. Not to say the others are anything but good Irish whiskey too.

“I have not been too keen now on how they would handle it in New York. For there’s much of the shamrock and pig sort of thing. And sometimes a bar will ask me to come around and tell some Irish lies and give the recipe. But I’m not for that as being undignified for Ireland.

“Not that I’m always a dignified man,” said Mr. Sheridan. “But that was before I stopped the drink.”

I asked Mr. Sheridan how much sugar he put in the coffee-and-whiskey.

“Two lumps, cocktail size,” he said. “When I made it for myself for the hangover, I drank it black. But with all the vice presidents and the big people comin’ to Foynes for the celebrations, I floated the cream on top for the taste and the looks of it.

“I called it Gaelic coffee. But here in America, it would be alright to call it Irish coffee. It being an Irish drink, invented by an Irishman and served in Ireland.

“But now ‘Irish coffee royal,’ that I would not approve. What with the interest that seems to be comin’ along and the fine hotels in America takin’ it up.

“It’s odd to think it all came out of my hangover,” said Mr. Joe Sheridan.

24 October 1955, San Mateo (CA) Times, pg. 16, col. 8:
SHANNON AIRPORT, Ireland (UP)—This international airport celebrated its tenth anniversary as a transatlantic base today by serving passengers coffee and cream with an Irish touch.

The Irish touch was a potent one—it was Irish whiskey. The drink is called “Gaelic coffee.”

2 September 1986, Chilicothe (MO) Constitution-Tribune, Celebrity Cipher, pg. 11:
“Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat.”—Alex Levine.

Google Groups: net.cooks
Newsgroups: net.cooks
From: (Alan Tobey)
Date: Wed, 5-Feb-86 15:02:02 EST
Local: Wed, Feb 5 1986 4:02 pm
Subject: Re: the food groups vs. the chinese

> Here at Valid, we have what is known as the “four Engineering food
> groups”.  We try to eat some of each every day:
> 1) Caffeine
> 2) Sugar
> 3) Salt
> 4) Grease

> Note that by simply eating pizza and drinking Dr. Peppper you have
> satisfied all four groups!

Here in the Bay Area, there’s a slight variant:  Nature’s most nearly perfect food is Irish Coffee, which supplies THESE four essential food groups—alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat.  EVERYBODY knows
that salt is bad for you grin!

Google Books
Renewal: The Anti-Aging Revolution
by Timothy J. Smith
Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press Inc.
1998
Pg. 217:
Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and fat.
--ALEX LEVINE, AS QUOTED IN THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

3000 Drinks - Irish Coffee
“Only Irish Coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fat.”—Alex Levine – Irish actor and musician

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Saturday, March 17, 2007 • Permalink


My grandfather’s favorite is classic Irish coffee, too. I don’t know why he loves this so much...maybe because he has an Irish blood or something. I always hear him telling my dad how much he love this coffee.

Posted by Ramona Berlin  on  12/06  at  10:22 PM

Just one comment on your enjoyable article above - You mentioned that the cream floats beautifully in Dublin but when you try in the States, it sinks.

Locally in Ireland we only use unwhipped pouring cream to achieve the desired effect. Just wondering if this may be due to the selection of cream type or maybe, unlike many in Ireland, if you whip this.

Best Regards,
Mike
http:/www.bookit365.com/blog

Posted by Mike Ireland  on  01/05  at  10:33 AM

I drank it black. But with all the vice presidents and the big people comin’ to Foynes for the celebrations, I floated the cream on top for the taste and the looks of it.

Posted by Travel Ins  on  01/04  at  10:39 PM

Interesting post about Irish coffee!
I think Ireland has so many things to offer… Here in Barcelona we have lots of Irish pubs! and they’re very popular. Atmosphere there is great!

Thanks for your post!

Posted by hrtfreeman  on  05/20  at  02:24 AM

Is it important for the taste which sort of sugar you take for the coffee? I read, that the brown sugar is the better one, for the taste? Isi true?

Posted by Raina  on  04/22  at  06:39 AM

My grandmother and I used to love drinking Irish coffee together when I was younger. I know, but it was great! I will have to let her know that the whip cream should not be whipped.

Thanks for the tips! Chelsea

Posted by Chelsea  on  06/09  at  03:44 AM

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