The City Magazine Since 1975

How to Make Irish Coffee

March 2018
How to Make Irish Coffee

Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day with Prohibition’s spin on the cocktail mixing whiskey, coffee, and cream, with a sprinkle of popcorn powder


(Serves 1)

Freshly whipped heavy cream, for topping (recipe below)
Popcorn powder, for topping (recipe below)
1 1/4 oz. Teeling Single Grain Irish whiskey
1/2 oz. Demerara syrup (2:1 ratio of Demerara sugar to water)
4 oz. freshly brewed Sumatra coffee

For the whipped cream:

Before creating the drink, make whipped cream by pouring one cup of heavy cream (cream must be at least 36 percent fat) into a metal bowl or stand mixer. Using either the mixer on medium speed or a hand whisk, whip the cream until it has only slightly thickened and soft peaks have formed, about six to seven minutes (you want the cream to pour easily into the glass). Store the whipped cream in the refrigerator until ready to use.

For the popcorn powder:

In a blender or food processor, combine one cup of freshly popped salted and buttered popcorn with one cup of maltodextrin (available online or at vitamin stores). Blend until the mixture has the texture of fine sand. (The maltodextrin cuts the fat in the popcorn butter, so the resulting powder is not greasy.) Store in an airtight container.

For the drink:

Pour the Irish whiskey, Demerara simple syrup, and freshly brewed coffee into a warmed glass Irish coffee mug, leaving about a half-inch of space at the top of the glass for the cream. Pour the freshly whipped cream carefully on top. Sprinkle on popcorn powder to garnish, if desired. Serve immediately.

Mixer’s notes:

Shake it up: “To save time behind the bar, we whip our heavy cream by pouring it into a shaker bottle [used to make protein drinks] and shaking it up,” notes McCourt. “Just be sure to only whip the cream a few seconds, so it pours easily into the glass.” You can purchase the bottles at most vitamin stores and online.

Warming trend: “A heated glass is key to a good Irish coffee,” McCourt explains. “Before pouring the drink, run your cup under hot water to warm it up.” This emphasizes the hot-cold contrast between the heated coffee and the whipped cream, he says.

Stirring stickler: While some Irish coffee purists refuse to stir any part of the cocktail—they simply build the drink and sip it as is—McCourt says it’s fine to give it a whirl after adding the simple syrup and coffee. “But don’t stir the cream,” he stresses. “It’s so much better to drink through that layer.”

Meet the Mixer: Jim McCourt (pictured above)
Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Jim McCourt is an old hand at making Irish coffee. “I’ve been doing it for as long as I remember,” he laughs. “I recently had a flashback of making Irish coffees with my mom when I was seven or eight years old.” Bars were his family’s business—“I grew up in them,” he jokes—and age 15 found him behind the counter himself, stirring drinks for customers. Later, McCourt jumped the pond to New York City, where he honed his mixing skills for some 17 years before moving to Charleston in 2013 to join the opening team at Prohibition, coincidentally composed of two other Irishmen. While his native cocktail has always been on the menu, McCourt recently started garnishing the drink with powder made from popcorn (or gran rosta in Irish)—an ingredient he swiped from the kitchen on a night the bar hosted a corn-themed dinner. “I should’ve used it years ago,” he says. “It adds an incredibly rich, buttery taste.”