The Rest of the Irish Coffee Story

You may have heard the story of how Irish coffee was invented to calm a planeload of passengers waiting out rough weather on a runway in Shannon, Ireland. After all, the press has been full of Irish coffee stories for yesterday’s St. Patrick’s Day holiday. It may have been invented near Shannon Ireland, but it was Jay Weston who helped to introduce Irish coffee to America a few years later, and he told the story last week in the Huffington Post.

His ad agency represented an Irish Whiskey and he had gone to Ireland to visit the distillery. Because of bad weather over western Ireland, the passengers made a bar stop at Shannon’s airport, and of course were served Irish coffees to warm them up. Though not a good advertisement for Shannon’s weather, Irish coffee has done a lot toward making Weston’s client’s whiskey sell like the proverbial Irish hotcakes.

At the time Weston tasted his first, the only US locale to make the amazing coffee drink was a San Francisco bar. So Weston hopped another plane and learned the secret of making Irish coffee. Most recipes suggest using whipped cream as a topping, but Mayor George Christopher of San Francisco, who doubled as a dairy farmer, recommended aging heavy cream for 48 hours and using that. Better than whipped cream, the aged cream floats on top instead of melting into the coffee. Then there’s the trick with the back of a spoon to pour it on top of the coffee – sounds much more dramatic than just plopping on a glop of frothed cream. To Weston’s credit, through networking, the treat was quickly introduced to the US by Times Magazine and his client’s sales soared from 15,000 cases a year to 62.000 in six months. Coffee lovers jumped on the Irish bandwagon and the demand caused bars all over the country to offer Irish Coffee. It’s been vying with green beer as a St. Pat’s Day tradition ever since.

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