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Irish Coffee Recipe

The Irish Coffee is a classic drink recipe featuring coffee and Irish whiskey. There are two variations on this cocktail, one with just coffee and whiskey. If you prefer it sweeter, go with the optional Irish cream or sugar. 

This is a quintessential after dinner drink. With the Irish cream addition, it’s lightly sweet – not a dessert drink, really, but it hits that note.

This is such a flexible drink – it works in almost any situation. You can be casual and just throw the ingredients together in a mug if you’re really not feeling fancy.

Or you can dress it up in a classic Irish coffee glass with whipped cream and sprinkles or syrup. That makes it look as gorgeous as it tastes.

Irish Coffee drink with whipped cream on table

It’s got six ounces of hot coffee to dilute that shot of whiskey, so it takes a while to sip this one. That gives you time to enjoy it and savor the taste.

And that makes this a great drink for when you need a few minutes to yourself. Just make this, sit back, and relax until you’ve finished your drink.

Variations on the Classic Irish Coffee

There are a couple of different versions of this drink. Or you could look at it as having two optional ingredients.

The absolute required ingredients are simply coffee and Irish whiskey. Some people also like to add Baileys. And you can top it with whipped cream, or not.

Overhead closeup of whipped cream and sprinkles on top of Irish Coffee drink

The whipped cream adds sweetness and creaminess, obviously. It’s definitely optional, but it looks pretty, especially when you dress it up with some golden sugar sprinkles.

The Baileys Irish cream adds a caramel note which is really special. It also adds both sweetness and some creamy texture.

So you may find you prefer it without the Baileys but with the whipped cream, or the other way around. You can’t really go wrong with this fantastic drink.

Which combination you’ll prefer can depend on your sweet tooth, or even just your mood. Even with both of those sweet ingredients included, it’s still not as sweet a drink as the Butterscotch Coffee Cocktail and the Coffee Nudge, for example.

Overhead shot of Irish Coffee drink with whipped cream and sprinkles

Which Irish Whiskey to Use?

For the best Irish coffee, you want to pick a nice Irish whiskey, especially if you’re leaving out the Irish cream and whipped cream. You’ll taste the whiskey more clearly that way.

You might want to try Jameson, Bushmill’s or Teeling small batch Irish whiskey, the last of which we reviewed a little while back. The Teeling has a nice sweetness to it, which makes it especially good for this drink done without either of the optional ingredients.

The coffee is important, too. Any good tasting coffee will do – it doesn’t need to be anything special. But it should be one you’d drink black. 

There could also come a time you want to make this drink with decaf coffee. It makes a fantastic nightcap, for example, with decaf (unless you’re one of those people who can drink coffee and go straight to bed and sleep).

If you want to make it with decaf, I’m a big fan of Melitta Decaf (which is getting really hard to find in stores) or Dunkin Donuts Decaf. They both have fantastic flavor.

Irish Coffee drink in Irish Coffee mug

This is, of course, an ideal drink for a chilly evening. I actually like to savor this one all by itself, but it’s also good alongside a dessert or sweet snack, like this Caramel Cream Pie from Shugary Sweets.

If you’re enjoying it with a very sweet treat, I would definitely consider leaving out the Irish cream. But it depends how much of a sweet tooth you’ve got.

However you make it and however you drink it, this is one drink that never fails to please.

Irish Coffee drink with whipped cream and sprinkle
Yield: 1 drink

Irish Coffee Recipe

Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 8 minutes

Irish Coffee is one of the simplest and oldest recipes for a coffee drink. It blends coffee with Irish whiskey and either sugar or Irish cream. It's a wonderfully bittersweet hot cocktail that's perfect for after dinner or as a nightcap (but you might want to make it with decaf coffee).


  • 1 1/2 ounces Irish whiskey
  • 6 ounces of strong, freshly brewed coffee
  • Whipped cream
  • Optional: 3/4 ounce Irish cream, or a teaspoon of brown sugar


  1. Brew some coffee and make it strong.
  2. Pour the whiskey into an Irish coffee mug.
  3. Put a spoon in the mug and pour in the hot coffee - the spoon somehow magically keeps the glass from breaking due to the hot liquid (don't ask me how, just enjoy the laws of physics).
  4. If you're adding sugar, do it now and stir until it dissolves.
  5. Add the whipped cream on top.
  6. Garnish with coffee beans, coffee grinds or brown sugar sprinkles.

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