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 glasses 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. From the crowds we witnessed inside it’s not hard to believe. 

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.


Tips For Making 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 & Tea Breakfast Blend in a whole bean 2 lb. bag on Amazon for $19.99 (not bad at all). For an alternative coffee close to the real thing use a smooth, rich medium roast blend you like.Peerless Coffee & Tea Breakfast Blend Bag

THE WHISKEY: The Buena Vista exclusively uses Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey in their Irish Coffees.  A well-stocked liquor store should carry it.

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 hand frother or electric foamer works great for this and is perfect any time you want a latte or other coffee house style drink at home.


THE GLASS: For ultimate most authentic Buena Vista Irish Coffee ever, serve 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 grab the exact Buena Vista style Irish Coffee glasses on Amazon.


Authentic San Francisco Irish Coffee From The Buena Vista Cafe

The Famous Buena Vista Irish Coffee

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.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 mins
Course Cocktails, Drinks
Cuisine Irish
Servings 1


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



  • 4 ounces hot coffee (smooth 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)


  • Fill an 8-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.
  • Fill the glass 3/4 of the way with hot coffee and then add the 2 sugar-cubes. Stir until completely dissolved.
  • 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 Buena Vista Irish Coffee!
Keyword coffee drink, Irish Coffee, San francisco
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Authentic San Francisco Irish Coffee From The Buena Vista Cafe