Thursday, March 11, 2010

Irish Coffee (Drink # 10)

One week from today is St. Patrick's Day - my favorite holiday of the year.  No other celebration is as joyful, and let's be honest, St. Patrick's Day doesn't carry the baggage that comes with other holidays.

It is a unique combination of tradition (sort of), good drink (definitely), good music (save for Danny Boy), and good food (even if corned beef and cabbage is completely inauthentic).

I was in Ireland back in 2006, ripping through all of the south, from Shannon, to Galway, to Dublin, Kilkenny, the Ring of Kerry...on and on and 8 days.  It was amazing.  I came away with a fond appreciation for the country and its culture.  And, it should go without saying, its drink.  (Cue obligatory photo of Irish landscape).

Ireland is probably best known for Guinness, and Irish whiskey. 

Guinness of course, is the brewery in Dublin that brews the stout beer of the same name.  It's excellent beer of course, few could disagree.  Word always is that it tastes better in Ireland than it does stateside, but I didn't find that to be case.  I think it's more likely that the Guinness in Ireland tastes about the same - but YOU'RE IN FREAKING IRELAND!, and that has to account for something.  Sentimentality makes everything taste better!

If you're a hard alcohol man, there's no more prominent Irish whiskey than Jameson, by far and away the best selling whiskey export Ireland has to offer.  Irish whiskey is different than other forms of whiskey in various ways - but rather than get into details (in this post anyway), it's safe to say that Irish whiskey is the lighter flavored, less peaty cousin of scotch whiskey.  One of my favorite whiskeys, Irish or otherwise is Tyrconnell, an Irish single malt that costs around $30-35 a bottle.  Great value, and a great whiskey. 

Today, I am fortunate enough to be drinking Irish Coffee, a drink supposedly first created in the 1940's after some American passengers had a particularly rough go on a "flying boat".  Yes sports fans, you read that correct: a flying boat!  Perhaps we account for their rough trip because they agreed to ride on a flying boat in the first place.

The Ultimate Bar Book, page 403

Irish Coffee
1 1/2 ounces Irish whiskey
1 teaspoon brown sugar
5 to 6 ounces strong hot coffee
Heavy cream or whipped cream

Pour the Irish whiskey into a warmed Irish coffee glass, add the brown sugar, and stir until dissolved.  Pour in the hot coffee, and slowly add the cream to float on top; do not stir.

Or top with a dollop of whipped cream.

This is the first drink that I've had more than a handful of times before starting this blog.  It's no surprise that I think it's fantastic.

But, this recipe is surprising to me for a couple of reasons.

First, I've never added brown sugar before, and never thought to do so.  Second, I'm not used to such a small amount of coffee in my Irish coffee.  In my trusty 1984 USA Olympic mug, 6 ounces makes up just over half of the mug, and that seems like an incredibly small amount of coffee relative to what I normally drink.  I'm downing two or three of these mugs if given the chance.  Is 5 or 6 ounces considered a serving?!?

With the smaller amount of coffee, the Irish whiskey is noticeably stronger.  That's not a bad thing.  It is an overwhelmingly warming drink.  With each sip, the heat of the drink, coupled with the whiskey makes the stomach feel as though it is surrounded by a heat-wrap, turned up to 11.  It's great.  Funny though, that the cold weather has been demolished by the 73 degree day we had today!  I'll drink a warm drink in 73 degree weather after the winter we've had.

Even though this is a tried and true classic, using the recipe did change my perspective just a touch.  If I had survived a calamitous journey in a flying boat, I too would have upped the ratio of whiskey to coffee - perhaps as high as equal parts coffee to equal parts whiskey.  Though if someone offers me a ride in a flying boat, I'm running in the other direction.

Tomorrow, the Brandy Champagne Cocktail!
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