The untold truth of Irish coffee

Irish coffee is a drink considered to be almost as iconic in the Emerald Isle as Guinness. Though it doesn't have quite as long a history (what beverage does — Guinness has been brewed continuously since 1759), the origins of Irish coffee date back to an era when transatlantic flights stopped at airports to refuel before arriving at their final destination (via Weaver Coffee). One airfield popular for refueling was outside of Limerick, Ireland. In the 1940s, airline passengers from the United States and Canada would sometimes stay overnight in Limerick before continuing on in the morning. A restaurant sprang up next to the airfield to accommodate them.

Joe Sheridan was the chef at the new restaurant, and he came up with a drink that would keep his customers warm on the cold nights (via The Whiskey Museum). Legend has it that one passenger asked if he was drinking Brazilian coffee. "No," Sheridan replied. "It's Irish coffee." Being that its birthplace was at an airfield where people were going and coming from all over the world, word of the drink quickly spread.

The popularity of Irish coffee takes off

Irish coffee soon took off in places as far from Limerick as San Francisco, where the Buena Vista Cafe has become an institution associated with serving the drink (via KQED). The bar serves up a whopping 2,000 Irish coffees on any given day of the week, and 2,500 on weekends. Buena Vista Cafe is widely credited with being the first place in the United States to serve the beverage, going back to 1952. The story goes that a travel writer told the owner of the bar about a beverage he'd been served at a restaurant in Limerick one night. They attempted to recreate it, but had no success. So, the Buena Vista brought Sheridan to San Francisco to faithfully recreate the drink there.

Irish coffee is described by James Beard Award winner Dale DeGroff this way: "Cold cream, hot sweet coffee, laced with wonderful Irish whiskey" (via Vinepair). It certainly sounds like the type of drink to keep you warm to the bottom of your toes on a cold Irish night. Or any night.