Nothing can top the Irish coffee at the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco. This venerable institution, the Buena Vista, is located at the end of the Powell Hyde cable car line and near Fishermans Wharf. Although the cafe opened in 1916, it wasn’t until 1952 that the first Irish coffee in America was invented and served at the Buena Vista. From that moment in 1952, the recipe has never changed.
If you have any 6-8 oz clear glass coffee mugs, I recommend using these for the Irish coffee. It’s all in the presentation you know! Heat the mug by pouring hot water into the glass and letting it stand for a few minutes.
Make a fresh pot of medium roast coffee which is probably closest to the breakfast blend used at the Buena Vista for their Irish coffee. Add 1-2 sugar cubes and stir well to melt the sugar. I chose to use demerara sugar which is a cane sugar with a toffee like flavor and aroma. I wanted to be consistent with the original Buena Vista recipe so I purchased a bottle of Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey and certainly did not regret it! Next, the icing on the cake, or the Irish coffee, is to get the cream just right.
I heated heavy cream and then used my frother to very lightly foam or whip the cream. As I recall, the bartenders at the Buena Vista gently float the delicately and barely whipped cream on top of the coffee drink. Use the back of a tea or coffee spoon to slowly pour the cream on top of the coffee. You should have two clearly defined layers.
Serve the Irish coffee with a spoon or a stirrer so the lucky recipient can stir the cream into the coffee. These light and dark layers remind me of the hazy skies and heavy fog that seem to be a constant presence on the California coast. This warm and cozy cocktail is perfect for an afternoon warm up or a toasty flavored coffee drink at the end of a long day. Try pairing the Irish coffee with a warm dessert like my gingerbread with brandied apples for even more coziness. Happy new year!!