The ‘take off’ of this refreshing beverage happened by chance, writes Liam Power
On a recent visit with my local retirement group to the Flying Boats Museum in the quaint village of Foynes, Co. Limerick, eighty years of interconnected memories awaited us. The intriguing association of this aviation location and two significant personalities were about to unravel and literally blend into the origins of a favourite tipple: The Irish Coffee.
From 1939- ’45, Foynes Airport was an important aviation hub for transatlantic passengers between Europe and North America. It was later to move across the estuary to morph into Rineanna and ultimately Shannon International Airport. The famous ‘Flying Boats’ carried a diverse range of renowned people: from Royalty to Presidents; from film stars to politicians, many of whom were treated to a warm concoction invented by the resident chef Joe Sheridan. As they say the rest is history.
The ‘take off’ of this refreshing beverage happened by chance. The story goes, a flight that left Foynes to New York in the winter of 1943 had to return to the airport due to bad weather. Chef Joe anticipated the passengers would be cold and in poor spirits. What better way to show Irish hospitality by not alone offering them hot coffee but adding some Irish whiskey and rejuvenate their ‘spirits’.
It went down a treat, hence Irish coffee in broad terms was born. An American passenger enquired, “Is this Brazilian coffee?” to which Joe replied, “No, that’s Irish Coffee.”
Some years later, a journalist with the San Francisco Chronicle, Stanton Delaplane had one such coffee on a trip to Shannon and was so impressed he took the recipe back to his friend and owner of the Buena Vista bar/cafe. The staff found it hard to recreate and perfect this Irish coffee, as a result in 1952, Joe was headhunted to that very same bar.