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The Surprising Connection: Irish Coffee and San Francisco

There’s nothing quite like sipping on a warm Irish Coffee on a chilly evening. This popular coffee-based drink, made with Irish whiskey, hot coffee, sugar, and topped with whipped cream, has an interesting history that dates back to the early 20th century.

In this article, we will explore the origins of Irish coffee and its connection to San Francisco. We’ll discuss the birthplace of the drink and the man behind its invention, as well as the popularity of San Francisco’s version of the drink.

The Origins of Irish Coffee

The birthplace of Irish coffee is a small airport in Ireland called Little Foynes Airport. During the 1940s, Little Foynes was an important hub for transatlantic flights, where passengers would break their journey for refueling.

In the airport’s restaurant, Chef Joe Sheridan would greet the passengers with a hot cup of coffee, mixed with some Irish whiskey, brown sugar, and whipped cream. According to legend, one evening, a group of American passengers arrived at the airport on a cold and stormy evening.

Chef Sheridan decided to add some whiskey to their coffee to warm them up, and thus, the Irish coffee was born. Joe Sheridan, the airport chef, was the inventor of Irish coffee.

The drink quickly became popular among travelers, and it wasn’t long before customers started requesting this unique coffee creation in other establishments. Irish coffee has since become synonymous with Ireland and is enjoyed by coffee and whiskey lovers alike around the world.

Irish Coffee and San Francisco

The connection between Irish coffee and San Francisco is an interesting one. In the 1950s, an American travel writer named Stanton Delaplane visited Ireland and tried the airport’s Irish coffee.

He was so impressed by it that he decided to take the recipe back to San Francisco. Delaplane introduced the recipe to a bartender at the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco, but they struggled to get the whipped cream to float on top of the coffee.

After many attempts, they finally perfected the recipe by using cream that was slightly beaten, but still pourable. The popularity of San Francisco’s version of the Irish coffee grew quickly, and soon people were flocking to the Buena Vista Cafe to try the drink.

Today, the Buena Vista Cafe serves over 2,000 Irish coffees each day, making it a must-visit destination for tourists and locals alike. In addition to the famous Irish coffee served at the Buena Vista Cafe, there are now many different variations of the drink that can be found all over the world.

Some popular adaptations include adding Bailey’s Irish Cream to the mix or using different types of whiskey.


In conclusion, Irish coffee is a delicious coffee-based drink that has a rich history and is a staple in the world of coffee and whiskey. Thanks to the ingenuity of Chef Joe Sheridan and the perseverance of the Buena Vista Cafe bartenders, this drink has become a beloved classic that excites the senses and warms the soul.

Irish coffee is a testament to the ingenuity of human beings and the way in which different cultures and traditions can come together to create something truly special. Whether you’re enjoying a classic recipe at the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco or trying out a new adaptation on a chilly evening at home, Irish coffee is a must-try drink for coffee and whiskey enthusiasts all over the world.

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