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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 Café, 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 glasses of their delicious original Irish Coffees over the years. On a busy day, they can sell over 2000 glasses and they report that they sell more Irish whiskey than anywhere else in the world. From the crowds we witnessed inside it’s not hard to believe. 

Authentic San Francisco Irish Coffee From The Buena Vista Cafe

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

A busy Buena Vista Cafe San Francisco

Fun Fact: If you get your Irish Coffee to go at The Buena Vista, you’re served a miniature bottle of Tullamore D.E.W. (their Irish whiskey of choice) on the side to get around local liquor laws. But once you are outside the restaurant, you just pop the little bottle open and pour the whiskey into the coffee yourself.  This option lets you have your authentic Buena Vista Irish Coffee so can keep exploring beautiful San Francisco.

The Buena Vistsa San Francisco Irish Coffee To go

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. On a recent visit, we discovered that they’re nice enough to give out their recipe in a lovely little brochure. And we’re sharing their recipe with you.

How to Make an Authentic Buena Vista Irish Coffee At Home


THE COFFEE:  For the perfect brew, Buena Vista uses the Breakfast Blend roast from local Oakland, CA coffee roaster Peerless Coffee & Tea.  You can grab the exact  Peerless Coffee & Organic Italian Roast in a whole bean 2 lb. bag on Amazon.

For an alternative close to the real thing, use a smooth, rich medium roast coffee blend you enjoy.

THE WHISKEY: The Buena Vista Café exclusively uses Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey in their Irish Coffees.  Averaging around $37 to$39 a bottle, they’re very reasonable and a well-stocked liquor store should carry it. If you’d rather order online and save yourself some time and energy, you can conveniently have the Tullamore D.E.W. shipped straight to your door from ReserveBar instead.


Tullamore D.E.W. Original

With a subtle and smooth complexity, Tullamore D.E.W. Original is the first triple dist… [More]

Price: $37.00


THE SUGAR: Sugar cubes are the only way to go in this cocktail for that touch of sweetness.  The Buena Vista adds 2 white sugar cubes to each glass for their recipe.  


THE CREAM: For the cream top on the Irish Coffee to float properly heavy cream should be lightly whipped until thick and frothy, but not stiff. An inexpensive milk frother or electric foamer works great for this recipe. They’re also perfect any time you want a latte or other coffee house style drink at home.


THE COFFEE GLASS: For the ultimate and most authentic Buena Vista Irish Coffee ever, serve it in a clear heatproof glass goblet or mug. It allows you to see the beautiful layers of the Irish coffee which definitely adds to the whole experience. You can also get the exact same style of Irish Coffee glasses they use in the restaurant at The Buena Vista on Amazon. 



Authentic San Francisco Irish Coffee From The Buena Vista Cafe


Authentic San Francisco Irish Coffee From The Buena Vista Cafe

The Famous Buena Vista Irish Coffee

Better Living
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.
4.75 from 8 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Course Cocktails, Drinks
Cuisine Irish
Servings 1


  • Coffee Maker
  • Electric Milk Frother
  • Heatproof Coffee Drink Goblet or Mug




  • Fill an 8-ounce clear heatproof glass with hot water. Swirl a bit and then pour out when the glass feels warm to the touch.
  • Add 2 sugar cubes to the bottom of the glass. Then fill 3/4 of the way with hot coffee.
  • Stir until completely dissolved.
  • Now add whiskey.
  • Holding a spoon over the glass. Start to slowly pour the slightly thickened, whipped cream over the spoon into the glass until full.
  • Enjoy your authentic Buena Vista Irish Coffee!
Keyword coffee drink, Irish Coffee, San francisco
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!