Classic Irish Coffee

Here’s the best Irish coffee recipe! Follow these tips for a next-level rendition of this classic boozy drink (plus, all the variations).

Irish coffee

Love booze in your coffee? Let’s make Irish coffee! There’s nothing more soul warming than that classic combination of bitter coffee, buttery whisky and frothy whipped cream. After making 200+ cocktail recipes, this is one that stands out. There are infinite variations on the spiked coffee theme, too. Here we’ll show you the best way to make that classic Irish coffee, then share a few of our very favorite variations on the theme. Ready to get buzzed?

Irish coffee ingredients

Irish coffee is a cocktail of warm coffee with a shot of Irish whiskey, topped with fresh cream or whipped cream. The modern version was invented in the 1950’s in Ireland. But there are several spiked coffee predecessors existed in early 19th century Austria and France, and later in Cuba and Latin America. Spiked coffee is also known as carajillo in Spain and Latin America, and there are many variations on the theme.

The Irish coffee became so popular that it’s part of the International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails. This means it has an “official” definition of how to make it, which includes these ingredients:

  • Coffee (warm)
  • Irish whiskey, like Jameson or other brands
  • Brown sugar or white sugar: there’s some debate on which is better, but either works!
  • Cream or whipped cream

As a note: the official IBA definition uses heavy cream, floated on top of the coffee. But it’s most commonly served with whipped cream, so we’ve used that definition in our recipe. How to make the very best Irish coffee recipe? Here are three tips for a next level cocktail.

Jameson Irish whiskey

How to make Irish coffee: 3 tips

Use Jameson Irish whiskey

You can use any type of Irish whiskey here, but Jameson is the easiest to find and most popular. Whatever you decide on, keep to this rule: use an Irish whiskey in Irish coffee! Why?

  • Jameson Irish whiskey has a unique flavor compared to other types of whiskey. It’s light and fruity, with a lightly floral scent and hints of nutty and vanilla tones. The finish is smooth and mellow, compared to the spicier finish of bourbon or rye whiskey. Do a taste test if you don’t believe us: the difference is pretty astonishing.
  • What are other brands of Irish whiskey? There are lots, and we won’t pretend to be experts. Head to Esquire to read more.
  • Can you use other types of whiskey in an Irish coffee? You can, but we highly recommend Irish whiskey for its light, fruity finish. In a pinch? Substitute bourbon.
  • What other drinks use Jameson whiskey? Try it in other Irish whiskey cocktails like an Irish Sour and an Irish Mule! They’re both fantastic uses for this mild whiskey.
Irish coffee recipe

Make homemade whipped cream

OK, got your Irish whiskey? Next tip: It’s imperative that you use homemade whipped cream in an Irish coffee! Do not even attempt to try Reddi-Whip or Cool Whip in this coffee cocktail. A great Irish coffee recipe demands homemade whipped cream. Here are a few notes:

  • Use the freshest cream you can. Fresh cream whips best and achieves the best texture. (Trust us! Older cream gets dense and chunky.)
  • Sweetened cream is best. Use this Homemade Whipped Cream recipe with a little powdered sugar. (For dairy free, use Dairy Free Whipped Cream.)
  • Whip the cream to soft peaks. This makes just the right soft texture for topping a drink; hard peaks make it too fluffy and buoyant.
  • Float it on top using the back of a spoon. This helps you gently place the cream on top of the drink.

Best Irish coffee mugs

Of course, you can serve your Irish coffee in whatever glass you like. But it’s most fun to drink it in Irish coffee mugs! Here are the Irish coffee mugs we recommend: they’re sleek and are exactly the right size to fit the drink recipe. You can also use them for all of the variations below.

Irish coffee ingredients

Use your favorite coffee (or even decaf)

What type of coffee to use for Irish coffee? Here you can use whatever type of coffee you like…even decaf! Here are a few notes on the actual cup of joe:

  • Dark roast coffee: This is most traditional. Make it up in your standard coffee pot.
  • Medium roast coffee: We used a single origin medium roast coffee and our standard pour-over method: the Chemex coffee maker.
  • Try Aeropress for a single cup: The Aeropress is an inexpensive and slick method for making a one-off cup of coffee.
  • Or make an Americano: If you have an espresso maker, you can make an Americano. It’s less traditional, but works and gives an even richer coffee flavor.
  • Try decaf: There’s no shame in using decaf if you don’t want to be up all night!

That’s it: all there is to know about Irish coffee! Let us know if you try this one and what you think. Once you’ve tried it, proceed to these deliciously bittersweet variations and try them all. (We love all of them.)

There are countless variations on the Irish coffee: you can use any type of liquor. Really, it’s just spiked coffee or carajillo: and it seems like every country has a spin. Here are some of the most popular Irish coffee variations to try by varying the liquor:

How to make Irish coffee

When to serve Irish coffee

This is one classy classic cocktail! It works for brunch, after dinner, or anytime in between. Serve it as a:

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Classic Irish Coffee

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (6 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian


Here’s the best Irish coffee recipe! Follow these tips for a next-level rendition of this classic boozy drink (plus, all the variations).




  1. Make the coffee, using your favorite method.
  2. Make the homemade whipped cream, making sure to whip to soft peaks.
  3. Add the coffee to a glass or Irish coffee mug, leaving about an inch at the top for cream. Stir in the sugar and whiskey until the sugar dissolves.
  4. Gently float the whipped cream on top using the back of a spoon. 
  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: Cocktails

Keywords: Irish coffee, Irish coffee recipe, Irish coffee ingredients, How to make Irish coffee

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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