National Irish Coffee Day is tomorrow, and if we can learn anything from the whiskey-spiked cup o’ joe, it might be this: never underestimate your airport bartender. In 1942, you see, when turbulent weather caused a herd of disgruntled travelers to deplane at an airbase in Foynes (a port town in County Limerick, Ireland) and congregate at the restaurant, bartender Joe Sheridan offered a comforting shoulder in the best way he knew how — through booze and coffee. Since then, Irish coffee has traveled its way across America by way of San Francisco’s Buena Vista Cafe, where the traditional whiskey, coffee, sugar and cream balance was incessantly practiced and perfected by then-owner Jack Koeppler before offering it to patrons. New York barkeeps have found their own ways to update the traditional — from flavored whipped cream to a spotlight on local coffee roasters. Here are a few spots where you might sample the drink.
Grace 365, 365 Third Avenue, 646-918-6553
Named after Ireland’s 16th Century “Pirate Queen” Grace O’Malley, this Kips Bay eatery prides itself on Gaelic hospitality via heightened pub fare. The team heats Stone Street coffee in sous vide style at 75 degrees before combining it with Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey and demerara sugar and topping it with whipped cream and grated nutmeg.
Santos Anne, 366 Union Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-486-6979
The menu at this jaunty Williamsburg hangout might read “Mexican,” but a balancing act comes through in the drinks list, where pastis and dark rum are discoverable among a sea of mezcal and house margaritas. For the Extra Irish Coffee, the team prepares a small French press, which they pour over a rich trio of Jameson, Baileys, and Kahlua before topping the mug with whipped cream and a sprinkling of Sugar in the Raw. The drink is served with a spoon and the remainder of the French press, making for a generously-caffeinated sidecar.
Extra Fancy, 302 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, 347-422-0939
A caffeine boost comes in handy at this late-night boardwalk-ready joint, where New England plates are dished out until 3:30 a.m. For the Meanwhile…Back at the Lodge cocktail, bar director Robert Krueger whisks heavy cream with Pernod Absinthe and simple syrup to create an anise-charged whipped topping for a bold and aromatic mug fill of Branca Menta, apple brandy, and French press coffee.
The Randolph at Broome, 349 Broome Street, 212-274-0667
Some choices in life are too difficult to make, and coffee versus cocktails might be one of the toughest. Perhaps it was a similar conundrum that landed this Soho drinkery with a slew of coffee cocktails — including a caffeinated vodka “coffee back” — which incorporate a rotating roaster lineup, including Oslo, Brooklyn Roasting Company, and Counter Culture. For the Black and White Russian, the team shakes and strains house brewed coffee vodka (Tito’s vodka is pulled through coffee grinds via a pour over), amaretto, and cold brewed coffee into a coupe before layering the surface with a blanket of housemade whipped cream.
Porter House, 10 Columbus Circle, 212-823-9500
This Columbus Circle steakhouse understands the fatigue that might accompany a lengthy, carnivorous dinner, so they make up for it post-prime strip steak. For a subtly tweaked variant on the traditional, the team spoons mint whipped cream atop a piping hot concoction of Jameson Black Barrel Whiskey and nutty Italian roast coffee.
The Dead Rabbit, 30 Water Street, 646-422-7906
Patrons can sample from a selection of 72 cocktails at this FiDi vertical drinking hall, where each of the three floors packs its own heightened take on the Irish pub. Belfast-bred barmen and owners Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry know a thing or two about Irish coffee; for theirs, they top Clontarf Irish Whiskey with Stone Street coffee and demerara simple syrup with a generous heaping of housemade whipped cream and a shake of fresh nutmeg.
The John Dory Oyster Bar, 1196 Broadway, 212-792-9000
The single digit degrees don’t look so bad when gazing out of the to-the-ceiling windows of this Ace Hotel corner hub, and that scene only gets cozier with a steaming and spiked mug in-hand. A mild — but strongly caffeinated — riff on the classic melds espresso with Jameson and brown and white sugar cubes for a mid-afternoon pick-me-way-up.