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It’s no surprise that the Irish Coffee was invented in Ireland. Conceived by a chef named Joe Sheridan it was only made famous in America when journalist Stan Delaplane, was served one while passing through Ireland in 1951.  By then the Irish Coffee had already gained popularity in Ireland and had become the house welcome drink at the airport.

When Stan returned to San Francisco, he told his friend, and owner of the Buena Vista Cafe, Jack Koeppler, about the delicious drink he had tried. They tried reproducing it on their own, but it never seemed to come out like the original. They just couldn’t get the cream right. After much experimentation and a trip back to Ireland, the two finally found success. The Buena Vista Irish Coffee was born.

Since 1952, the Buena Vista has sold millions of their delicious original Irish Coffees over the years. On a busy day, they can sell over 2000 and they report that they sell more Irish whiskey than anywhere else in the world.

As you can imagine the bar can get pretty packed with customers looking to get a taste of their famous Irish Coffee.


Located on the corner of Hyde and Beach streets, overlooking Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, the Buena Vista Cafe isn’t around the block for most of us. We recently visited them and found that they’re nice enough to give out their recipe in a cute little brochure. Below is the recipe for the Buena Vista Irish Coffee so you can enjoy one at home.



Here’s the recipe:

5 from 1 vote
The Famous Buena Vista Irish Coffee
Prep Time
10 mins

The Irish Coffee was invented by Chef Joe Sheridan in Ireland and made famous in America by the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco. Since 1952, they've sold millions of their perfected Irish Coffees over the years. They're still served to this day at the Buena Vista. Here's how you can enjoy one in your own home.

Course: Cocktails, Drinks
Servings: 1
  • 4 ounces hot coffee (smooth, not bitter blends work best)
  • 1.5 ounces Irish whiskey (Buena Vista uses Tullamore Dew)
  • 2 sugar cubes
  • 1.5 ounces heavy cream (lightly whipped, not stiff)
  1. Fill a 6-ounce clear heatproof glass with hot water to warm the glass. Pour out when the glass feels warm to the touch. Add the whiskey to the glass.

  2. Fill the glass 3/4 of the way with hot coffee and then add the 2 sugar-cubes. Stir until completely dissolved.

  3. Holding a spoon over the glass. Start to slowly pour the slightly thickened, whipped cream over the spoon into the glass until full.

  4. Enjoy your Buena Vista Irish Coffee!

Tips For The Perfect Irish Coffee

  • Use Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey like they do at the Buena Vista.
  • The Buena Vista uses hot brewed Peerless Coffee from Oakland, CA but any smooth strong coffee will work.
  • For the cream to float properly it should be lightly whipped until thick and frothy, but not stiff. An immersion hand blender works great for this.
  • Serve the Irish Coffee in a clear heatproof glass mug or goblet. It allows you to see the beautiful layers of the cocktail. You can purchase the exact ones they use at the Buena Vista at their gift shop online.