How an Irish chef invented Irish Coffee in 1943

The history of Irish Coffee

Happy St. Patrick's Day! If you're like us, you're celebrating the Irish holiday with a spiked coffee drink that will keep you buzzed and wired all day long. Of course, we're talking about Irish Coffee

Irish Coffee is one of the world's most popular drinks, but how did it become so popular? And where did it begin? 


Photo: Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum

Irish Coffee was invented in Foynes, a small town in the west of Ireland. Foynes was an airbase near Limerick, and was the man airport for Flying Boats between America and Europe. 

By 1940, the airport was handling many passengers from around the world, including top politicians and world leaders. And since weather conditions are notoriously bad in Western Ireland, it wasn't uncommon to find yourself turning your 30-minute layover into an overnight stay. 

In 1943, Brendan O'Regan opened a restaurant opened and hired Joe Sheridan to be the chef. That winter, a Pan Am flying boat flight to New York turned back to Foynes due to bad weather. Sheridan was tasked with preparing hot food and drinks for the freezing passengers. 

Sheridan decided to prepare something special to heat up the passengers — so he brewed dark, rich coffee, added in some Irish whiskey, a little brown sugar, and fresh whipped cream on top of each cup. 

One passenger thanked him for the wonderful drink and asked if used Brazilian Coffee — to which Sheridan responded with "No, it was Irish Coffee!" Just like that, Irish Coffee was born and Joe Sheridan instantly became an international hero. I mean, coffee and whiskey?! Is there a better combination?

Irish Coffee was an instant hit — so much so that he made it a regular part of the menu in Foynes. And it became an international hit when Stanton Delaplane, a travel writer from San Francisco, brought the recipe back to America. 

By 1945, the era of the Flying Boat was coming to an end and Foynes closed in order to make way for land planes. Shannon International Airport opened its doors, and Sheridan took his famous drink to the new airport there. He worked there until 1952, when the Buena Vista Cafe offered him a job in San Francisco. Sheridan is remembered in Shannon and the story of Irish Coffee is honored in the Foynes Flying Boat Museum.

Related: The best Irish Coffee recipe to make at home

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