I bartended at Bennigan’s during college, you know, the Irish pub-themed chain restaurant. I knew at the time that the menu, with loaded potato skins and mega nachos, was not traditionally Irish, even before taking my first trip to Ireland over 15 years ago. But, I occasionally made an Irish Coffee, loaded with Reddi-Whip whipped cream, bright green creme d’menthe, and a sickly sweet maraschino cherry. At the time, I never assumed that the home of Irish coffee would be anywhere other than the US. I could not imagine that the home of Irish coffee could actually be in…gasp…Ireland.
In my many, many trips to Ireland over the last 15 years, I’ve never had an Irish coffee in Ireland. I’ve had many a Guinness. Perhaps too many. I’ve had many a glass of whiskey…Powers, Paddy’s, Jameson. I’ve even had a hot whiskey, first introduced to me by our late cousin Eddie Crean, when I was feeling a sinus infection come on during a particularly wet Irish summer.
But, I’ve never had an Irish coffee. In fact, I sort of give up drinking coffee as soon as I step foot onto the island. I am inundated with loads of tea drinking opportunities, always with a bit of milk. Never with sugar.
In all of our trips to Limerick city, I never knew that just down the road, still within County Limerick, was the town of Foynes, home of Irish coffee.
The Foynes Flying Boat Museum
I only found out about the Irish coffee when it was suggested that we stop on our way to Dingle at the Foynes Flying Boat Museum. I heard that the restaurant attached to the museum was the home of Irish coffee. I kind of figured we could stop for lunch, and an Irish coffee, and go on our merry way.
I am married to an #AvGeek, however, so we took the time to visit the flying boat museum, which was actually super interesting. The museum focuses on the history of the initial mammoth airplanes, which first made the journeys across the Atlantic between the first and second world wars. We even had the chance to walk inside a replica of the Yankee Clipper, one of the B314 flying boats that landed at Foynes during journeys across the Atlantic from America.
For Eric, this was a thrill. Even for me, I thought the museum interesting, but I kept thinking about how Foynes, and this spot within Foynes in particular, became home of Irish coffee, a drink I assumed was invented by the Americans.
Apparently, after an evening of particularly nasty weather, a flight landed in Foynes. The flight attendant and a passenger made their way into the bar, and the bartender made them something special, something to take the chill off. He didn’t want to just throw some liquor into a coffee, so he decided to add some heavy cream on the top. When asked what it was called he replied “It’s an Irish Coffee.” The rest was history.
Making a Coffee at the Home of Irish Coffee
So, there we were in the museum’s restaurant, receiving a demonstration about how to warm the glass, add the brown sugar, add the shot of Powers whiskey (and always Powers whiskey), maybe top it off with a little extra whiskey when no one is looking, pour in the coffee, and then gently layer fresh cream to land over the top.
Although in a uniquely shaped glass, with the Power’s whisky logo across the front, the Irish coffee looked a little like a Guinness: dark on the bottom and light on the top. The taste: a little bitter and sweet, with my favorite part being the sweet cream on the top. I kind of wanted to run my finger through the creamy top, or minimally to lick the extra cream that was left in the jar.
Although I was able to taste, Eric actually made his own Irish coffee, with the woman running the demonstration. For his trouble, he received a “gold” medal and a certificate of achievement stating he was qualified as an Irish coffee maker in the home of Irish coffee. Can that go on his CV? Perhaps on our media kit?
We were hosted by Failte Ireland during our food tour of the Wild Atlantic Way, but all opinions are my own. Tickets for the Foynes Flying Boat Museum run 11 Euros. The museum is open from 9:30-5, and until 6pm during the summer months.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.