When talking about the country of Ireland, many subjects can be broached: St. Patrick’s Day, drinking, the “luck of the Irish”, Gaelic football, putting whiskey in coffee (aka: Irish Coffee, more on that below), Lucky Charms…

All of those topics will probably be talked about before Irish coffee culture is brought up; it doesn’t really exist in the country (at least not at the same caliber it does in the states) as Ireland is still largely a tea drinking nation. However, the country’s mindset towards coffee has been changing- albeit at a slow pace- over the years. A study done by Ireland’s Food Board (Bord Bia) in 2016 reported that 75% of the Irish population drink coffee regularly, with “7 in 10 drinking more than one cup per day”.

Irish Coffee: A Brief History

The first coffee house opened in Dublin during the reign of Charles II (1660-1685). Slowly, the concept of the coffee house spread across the country with coffee shops opening in Cork, Limerick, Kilkenny, Clonmel, Wexford, and Galway; with shops opening in the larger cities of Belfast and Waterford in the latter part of the 18th century.

Coffee shops became popular places for fashionable working men to conduct business. But, it didn’t take long until business wasn’t the only topic of conversation in these coffee shops; more men started meeting at coffee houses (starting what they called, “Gentleman’s Clubs”), rather than taverns, to partake in cigars and political debate over coffees late into the night. Soon enough, coffee houses gained an reputation for an affable atmosphere that garnered widespread appeal.

There was a steady interest in coffee culture throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, but it didn’t have a significant presence in Ireland until the 21st century when coffee shops started offering popular specialty coffee drinks like espresso, cappuccinos, lattés, and macchiatos that were popular in big cities such as London and Paris. Like the coffee shops in the 17th and 18th century, these specialty coffee shops became popular places for both business and casual meet ups. This tradition carries on today in both the North and the republic of Ireland; you can catch businessmen and women hard at work in local cafés and coffee shops or friends catching up over a coffee (or two).

As previously mentioned, Ireland as a whole is still very much a tea-drinking nation. However, these numbers have been changing since the earlier part of the 21st century. In 2008, Stephen Morrissey placed first in the World Barista Championship– therefore solidifying Ireland’s presence in the coffee world; in 2016, Dublin was host to the World of Coffee convention which was attended by baristas from over 100 nations. It seems that, despite other economic troubles, Ireland’s coffee culture is going strong with no signs of letting up.

Traditional Irish Coffee Recipe

Irish Coffee is one of our favorite ways to enjoy a nightcap- especially during the winter months! Here’s an easy recipe (with some fun variations) to make one at home.

What you’ll need:

  • 3 oz (6 Tbl.) freshly brewed coffee
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp. packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 oz. Irish whiskey (like Jameson)
  • Whipped cream
  • Microwaveable/ heat-resistant mug


  1. Heat up mug either by filling with boiling water (dumping out after a minute or two) or by microwaving for ~30 seconds.
  2. Fill mug 3/4 of the way with hot coffee.
  3. Add both granulated and brown sugars. Mix until completely dissolved.
  4. Add whiskey, stirring to incorporate.
  5. Add dollop of whipped cream.
  6. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Other variations of Irish Coffee:

  • “Buena Vista” Irish Coffee– Use two sugar cubes (in place of granulated and brown sugars), and lightly whipped cream (so that it’s still liquid-y) and pour over the back of a spoon.
  • Irish Cream Coffee– use half Irish whiskey and half Bailey’s Irish Creme Liqueur, top with a maraschino cherry.
  • Irish Coffee, made with Bailey’s– Replace Irish whiskey with Bailey’s.
  • Irish Coffee, made with Kahlua– replace Irish whiskey and either add 3/4 oz. Kahlua to original recipe (keeping the Bailey’s) or replace the Bailey’s entirely with Kahlua.
  • Almond Irish Coffee– add a few drops of almond to whipped cream (or straight into the coffee) to give your drink an unique depth of flavor. Bonus tip: A touch of Amaretto also compliments this combination well.


Want to learn about coffee culture in other countries? Check out our posts about Traditional Indian Coffee Culture, Traditional Greek Coffee Culture, and Traditional Vietnamese Coffee Culture– all with recipes included for iconic coffee beverages from each country!