It seems appropriate that I'm readying for National Irish Coffee Day (Friday, Jan. 25) in San Francisco, the city responsible for bringing the caffeinated, boozy beverage to the states. Fans of an occasional Irish coffee--if you're unfamiliar, it's a hot coffee with a little sugar, a jigger of Irish whiskey, and a float of lightly whipped cream--can thank a journalist named Stanton Delaplane. The story goes that the Chronicle reporter had first encountered the beverage in Ireland's Shannon Airport, and on Nov. 10, 1952, was challenged by Jack Koeppler, then-owner of a little place called the Buena Vista Cafe, to help perfect the recipe here.
Their experimentations obviously worked, as the Buena Vista has built its reputation on Irish coffee, serving thousands a day, and even holding a world record for the biggest Irish coffee ever made. It doesn't hurt that the little bar's location is just steps from the tourist mecca of Fisherman's Wharf, right near the last stop on the Powell-Hyde cable car line.
But one needn't travel all the way to SF for a decent representation of this antiquated beverage--in fact, it could be easily argued that if you happen to find yourself in San Francisco, you could find both better coffee and better cocktails elsewhere. If you're looking for a place to celebrate National Irish Coffee Day in Seattle, I suggest trying one of these places:
The Lower Queen Anne mainstay calls their Irish coffee Seattle's best, and we'd agree it's definitely the most popular. T.S. McHugh's uses John Powers Irish whiskey, muddled pure can sugar, freshly brewed Caffe Appasionato coffee, and the standard lightly whipped cream.
Downtown, Fado makes Irish coffee as it was made famous in the Irish village of Foynes, County Limerick, in the 1940s. Bartenders use Bushmills and brown sugar in the coffee, and top the concoction with homemade cream and cinnamon swirls.
Though its menu of espresso cocktails doesn't mention an Irish coffee per se, White Rabbit uses Stumptown beans and offers a variety of more creative libations--and they can make you whatever you ask for. Try something new with the Buckshot, a shot of espresso and a shot of honey whiskey, eliminating all the frou-frou sugar and cream.