I dislike the drunken debauchery that many associate with St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
But, despite our reputation, the Irish aren’t the only people to indulge in “the demon drink” when celebrating a national holiday. And, as with other nationalities, for every drunken Paddy, there’s a sober one celebrating the day in a more mindful way.
I gave up my drunken ways a long time ago. (Well, to be more honest, I gave up my deliberately drunken ways—I still do, accidentally, get a tad drunk on occasion.)
But I do like the odd Irish coffee.
Since giving up dairy at the start of this year, this has taken Irish coffee off the table for me. No biggie, given that it’s a special occasion thing for me.
But I really do like to have one (or two) on Paddy’s Day.
And traditionally, St. Patrick’s Day is when we’re allowed to take a break from our Lenten fast. (Traditionally, we Irish were all Catholics who took the Lenten fast seriously. And the breakout that was St. Patrick’s Day could probably be linked to its evolution into a drink-fueled festival.)
Anyway, I digress to make an excuse—this Paddy’s Day I’m breaking my dairy-free fast and I’m going to have an Irish coffee.
(Maybe there is a dairy-free alternative to whipped cream that would work, but I’ve only gotten as far as excluding dairy from my diet so far, and have yet to explore the alternative options that are out there.)
To make me feel better about my betrayal of the cows, I’m going to try and lure you into joining me by sharing with you how to make it.
(If you join me, then you cannot judge me.)
The key to a great Irish coffee lies in the whiskey (good Irish whiskey, of course), freshly whipped cream (never from a can), the inclusion of sugar (preferably brown) and the temperature of the coffee.
The coffee doesn’t have to be the best brew in the world—the yumminess comes from the blend of the coffee with the sugar and whiskey. The sugar is important—leave it out and the overall concoction will taste far too bitter, even for those who don’t usually take sugar in their coffee.
The critical thing about the coffee is that it is hot. The hotter, the better. And don’t worry about using instant—in fact, it’s a good choice, because it’s usually hotter than brewed coffee.
The contrast between the heat of the coffee and the coldness of the cream helps the cream to float on top.
So, here’s your how-to:
- Begin by placing a metal spoon (to conduct the heat) in your glass and pouring in some boiled water. Swish around to heat the glass and pour out.
- Then add your hot coffee, a spoonful of sugar and a measure of whiskey. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
- Now for the tricky bit: spoon your whipped cream into the glass—but don’t do it directly. Hold another (cold) spoon just above your coffee. (I turn it upside down, but that might just be a family quirk.) Pour your cream over the other spoon and allow it to gently flow onto the coffee below. This technique should ensure perfectly floating cream.
In fancy bars and restaurants they often serve with coffee beans or chocolate shavings on top. I never bother—we’re after what lies beneath the cream, not what’s on top.
Wait a few minutes for the coffee to cool, then sip slowly, drawing the coffee up through the cream.
Try to stop at two. It’s coffee. And whiskey. Best not to overindulge in either one.
(Not to mention the sin that is supporting the mainstream dairy industry. My penance shall be to find a dairy-free alternative topping in time for next St Patrick’s Day.)
Lá Fhéile Pádraig!
Author: Hilda Carroll
Editor: Catherine Monkman