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The Definitive Irish Coffee

A while ago, I discovered the delicious flavor of burnt sugar syrup. It adds welcome complexity to cocktails like an Old Fashioned or Tequila Sour. It also works well in coffee drinks. So, naturally, I wanted to double-down and try it in coffee cocktail. The results were spectacular.


You’ve never had an Irish Coffee like this

I’ve had the famous Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista in San Francisco. It has nothing on this recipe.

The trick with this version is getting the drink hot enough. Between the Irish Whisky and the syrup, almost of third of the volume comes from room-temperature ingredients. In my first attempts, this brought down the drink to an undesirable lukewarm temperature. I address this problem two ways: first, I pre-heat the mug by filling it with hot water; second, I pre-warm the whisky and sugar in a hot water bath.

It also leaves less room for coffee, so I brew the coffee extra strength. This way, the same amount of coffee flavor is added to the drink. I use 15 grams of coffee grounds with only about four ounces of water (brewing in an Aeropress makes this easy). About a half ounce of water will remain soaked into the grounds, yielding 3 1/2 oz of coffee.


  • 1 oz Tullamore Dew Irish Whisky
  • 3/4 oz burnt sugar syrup
  • 3 1/2 oz extra-strong coffee
  • 1 oz cream, whipped until thick and frothy but still pourable

Heat plenty of water for the coffee. After it comes to temperature, fill the mug with hot water and pour some in a small bowl. Add the whisky and burnt sugar syrup to a metal cocktail shaker and place it in the bowl of hot water as a water bath to warm the two ingredients.

Mug and cocktail shaker preheating with hot water

Preheat the mug and the whisky & syrup mixture

While those warm, you can go about grinding your coffee beans. And start brewing the coffee. Make sure you’re using good beans, not mass-produced burnt stuff like Starbucks.

Pour out the hot water from the mug, then add the now warm whisky and syrup. Then add the coffee.

Brewing coffee in an Aeropress

An Aeropress is great for brewing small portions. Fill it less than half way.

The coffee will float atop the syrup, so give it a good stir. Then, holding a spoon just above the coffee, pour the frothed cream over the spoon so it floats atop the drink. Enjoy it while hot!

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