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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night - St. Pat, Mr. Bergin & Irish Coffee

Everyone has heard of Irish coffee yet everyone probably misunderstands exactly what it is. Coffee and whiskey, right? Well, Not exactly.
The origins of Irish coffee are indeed Irish as the name implies. Recently I sat down with Derek Schreck, owner of Tom Bergin’s Public House in Los Angels (they hold the 2nd oldest liquor license in LA) to uncover the origins of Irish Coffee for St. Patrick’s Day. To be fair there are several iterations of Irish Coffee and its genesis, but Sheridan, an airport and whiskey are all the main words you need to know.

Derek Schreck manning the bar
It was 1939 and at the Shannon Airport in County Clare, Ireland it was a frightful night to travel. When a plane took off it was forced back to the airport due to the torrential storm. Cold, tired and trembling the passengers were miserable. Joseph Sheridan who operated the restaurant at the airport decided to make a warm drink to calm the passengers nerves and lift their spirits. He mixed Irish whiskey, specifically Tullamore Dew, with sugar, coffee and whipped cream. It was an instant hit and it soothed the anxiety of the passengers and, Irish coffee was born – in Ireland. That original concept of Irish coffee didn't migrate to America until 1954 however. Tullamore Dew has always been the "proper" whiskey to use, not their higher end Phoenix or other Irish Whiskey, though I love Teeling, Yellow Spot and Red Breast 12.
Beverage Director Brandi Boles and I making cocktails
Anyhow, Tom Bergin’s Public House in Los Angeles is the “home of Irish coffee” as it has been for 60 years. Schreck is only the third owner in the pubs' history, and is emphatic that Irish coffee should be considered a cocktail, not merely a coffee drink, and that’s one of the reasons it is not served in a mug with a handle. The coffee they use, roasted for them from New Mexico, is a strong, robust coffee as more mild coffees don't hold up to the potent whiskey. It was always known that true hand-whipped Irish cream was gravity intolerant, meaning it would hold to your hand when turned upside down, thus making it suitable as part of the drink- - you never use spray crap out of a can.
Toasting Carey Grant's Shamrock at his booth
If you don’t like coffee, or even Irish coffee, a visit to Tom Bergin’s is cool for a number of reasons:
-They have one of the largest selections of Irish Whiskies in the U.S.
-It was originally co-owned by Bing Crosby
-It was a watering hole for nearby movie studios in the 40s and 1950s
-The TV pilot for Cheers has hatched here
-Carey Grant was such a regular he has his own booth
-Prior to the Lombardi trophy Super Bowl champs got just a banner they could hang in their stadiums. The Los Angeles Rams actually won the super bowl in 1951 - good trivia right there, and that winning banner now resides at Tom Bergin’s.

Classic Irish Coffee
If you’re in the LA area, make it a point to visit Tom Bergin’s, which has a vast Irish whiskey catalog and brown spirits to serve you. Here is the original Irish Coffee recipe, properly served in a warmed toddy glass. The result is a juxtaposition of a cool cream cap, which breaks into the hot coffee with warm woody notes and a great balance of coffee and whiskey. 

Warm 6 oz. glass with hot water, add:
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 ½ ounces of Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey
Add to nearly the rim dark, strong coffee
Top with hand-whipped Irish cream.

1 comment:

  1. Really cool. Stuff I had no clue about. Nice piece.