The Best Irish Coffee Is in New Orleans

updated Dec 17, 2019
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

It’s St. Patrick’s Day this week, which is a terrific excuse to not only drink green beer and don some plaid, but also to drink Irish coffee. If you ask our assistant food editor Sheela, the best Irish coffee is made by her Uncle Eddie — and we have tested this method and found it to be a winner.

Get the recipe: How To Make Irish Coffee

But if you ask me, the very best Irish coffee comes from New Orleans.

First: A Short History of Irish Coffee

The very first Irish coffee in the United States was served in November 1952 at San Francisco’s Buena Vista Cafe. The story goes that Stanton Delaplane, a columnist for the Chronicle, was served the whiskey-spiked, cream-topped coffee at Ireland’s Shannon Airport. He was so enamored of the beverage (invented by bartender Joe Sheridan to revive chilled passengers) that he convinced the cafe’s owner to add it to the menu.

After a boozy night of experimentation, the drink was ready for the public and the rest, as they say, is history: Buena Vista and Irish coffee are basically synonymous. The cafe serves roughly 2,000 Irish coffees per day and is the single largest consumer of Irish whisky in the United States.

Of course, now you can find Irish coffee throughout the country in every shape and form, including my very favorite.

The Best Irish Coffee Is in New Orleans

I’m talking about frozen Irish coffee! Specifically, the frozen Irish coffee at Erin Rose, a dark and sometimes-sticky dive bar in the French Quarter. This combination of local dairy, local coffee, brandy, and coffee liqueur, blended to frosty perfection and served (from a soft-serve machine) with coffee grounds on top is frosty, creamy, and caffeinated — in short, it’s everything you want on a balmy day in New Orleans.

The drink, which was first invented at Molly’s on the Market sometime in the 1980s and later brought over to Erin Rose, has become very nearly as famous as the original Buena Vista Irish coffee. Unfortunately, the recipe is a closely guarded secret, although Rhiannon Enlil, the bar manager at Erin Rose, told Imbibe, “If you approach it like a boozy milkshake using your home blender, you’ll be headed in the right direction.”

Have you tried the frozen Irish coffee at Erin Rose? What did you think?