21 Dec 2012

Irish Coffee – how to do it properly

There's no better pick me up after Christmas dinner than a warming Irish Coffee. The tricky part of course is making it properly. I for one have met numerous people who claim to be able to make Irish Coffee properly... but when they fail miserably to float the cream, they blame the spoon, they blame the temperature of the cream, the quality of the coffee... anything but themselves.  Although the step by step instructions are simple enough, there is a knack to getting it right.

Quickly running through what you need for an Irish Coffee:

ñ  whiskey
ñ  hot black coffee
ñ  light brown or demerara sugar
ñ  cream

Regarding the whiskey, it doesn't have to be cask aged single malt at £50 a bottle, as any bog standard blended whiskey will do. Even if you consider yourself a whiskey snob, you won't taste any of the nuances through the coffee, so you're wasting your good whiskey using it in an Irish Coffee.

The coffee however does need to be good quality... so if you were reaching for that jar of Nescafe.. STOP!  Whatever you do, don't use instant coffee. Instead buy your coffee from a supplier such as www.denbydalecoffee.co.uk who only stock the good stuff. You can use fresh coffee beans to grind yourself, ground filter coffee, coffee pods or capsules... the format doesn't matter, it's the quality that counts.

Light brown or demerara sugar taste better with coffee than bleached white sugar. And the sugar is what thickens the hot coffee and whiskey mixture just enough to allow the cream to float. If you don't take sugar, then tough... the cream won't float without it unless it comes out of an aerosol. If you're skim reading this, I'll say it again just so you're doubly sure... the cream will not float if you don't use sugar!

Finally, we have the cream. It's up to you if you use single or double cream, as this wont affect its floatiness... what will affect its floatiness however is the sugar (!) and the method you pour the cream in. This is where some people have their silly ideas, such as stirring the coffee into a vortex (wrong!), pouring over the back of a red hot spoon (wrong!), using a 'squirty' cream (get out!).

The method, is simple. Preheat the glass or cup before pouring in the hot coffee & whiskey mix (4 parts coffee, 1 whiskey is nice). Then stir in two teaspoons of light brown or demerara sugar. This not only sweetens the coffee, but also makes it thicker so the cream will float... without the sugar it won't work. Next, place an upturned spoon against the side of the cup, just above the coffee and over this, slowly pour the cream. Providing you've thickened the coffee with sugar, it should float. Obviously the effect is best when poured into a glass, but the taste as you sip the hot block goodness through the cold creamy whiteness is just as good in either a cup or a glass.

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