The Secrets of the Best Irish Coffee, According to My Uncle Eddie

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

My uncle’s a pretty easy-going, good-humored man, but when it comes to Irish coffee, he’s nothing but serious. You see, he has his own kit — really just an old cardboard box with the words “Eddie’s Irish Coffee Kit” scribbled on the outside in a Sharpie — but it’s filled with his secrets.

It’s a traveling box, this kit. It comes with him to my cousin’s house for Christmas Eve and to other family affairs when capping off the evening with a boozy coffee seems fitting and festive. These Irish coffees, piled high with whipped cream, really are the best — they’re famous among family and friends alike. Here’s the funny part, though: he’s French Canadian. He may have married an Irishwoman, but he’s got Québécois running through his veins. No matter, though, because boy can he make a mean one. And after a few gentle nudges from his favorite niece, I got him talking.

Why My Uncle’s Coffee Is the Best Irish Coffee

You see, my uncle isn’t complicated, and so his secrets aren’t actually that complicated either. But he strictly follows his own recipe and firmly believes it produces superior results. And I just can’t argue with that. The whole process he follows and some of the quirky habits make this the best, but from a flavor standpoint it’s how he approaches the sugar that makes all the difference.

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

First, the Sugar

Brown and white sugar are key. Specifically, a teaspoon of light brown sugar and a teaspoon of plain ol’ granulated sugar per cup of coffee. My uncle says it’s the brown sugar that makes all the difference in the world between a good Irish coffee and a great one, as those caramel notes the brown sugar lends to the drink are really what make it stand out. He also says it needs to be a spoonful of each because using all brown sugar would make it too molasses-rich; it’s about balance here.

Using Sugar Cubes?

Here’s a fun fact: One teaspoon of sugar is equivalent to one sugar cube. So even if Uncle Eddie scoffs at it, it’s also OK to break out the cubes. It’s the holidays, after all!

(Image credit: Josef Sowa)

Second, the Booze

No question: It has to be Jameson. Once my Dad went to a fancy bar and ordered an Irish coffee made with fancy Irish whiskey and thought it was pretty good. He suggested to my uncle that he use this fancy Irish whiskey and, although he gave it a try, he immediately went back to using Jameson’s. It’s smooth, sweet, and just a touch spicy, plus it’s not too damaging on the wallet.

Read more: Why I Drink Jameson

Third, the Whipped Cream

Here’s how my uncle assembles: The jigger of Jameson goes into the mug, followed by the two sugars. He stirs until the sugars are dissolved and then adds the hot coffee. While our tested method at Kitchn calls for adding the whiskey after the coffee and sugars, my uncle reverses it — this isn’t for any particular reason, but rather his habit, so feel free to follow either method. It’s not ready to be enjoyed, however, until it’s finished with plenty of whipped cream on top. That big dollop is just as important as the boozy drink beneath it.

How do you like your Irish coffee?