Irish coffee is an exercise in simplicity. Too much fuss and it loses its character.
You want a strong punch of coffee, a lingering warmth from the Irish whiskey, a touch of sweetness, and some cream to bring it all together.
Why Brown Sugar?
Keeping this desire for simplicity in mind, one change that I've made to make my Irish coffee special is to use brown sugar in place of white. Its musky, molasses-y flavor bolsters the coffee and lends the whiskey a bit more heft.
Simple to make, but the result is anything but.
Resist the temptation to add coffee liqueurs such as Irish cream since, ultimately, that’s all you will taste.
Pick the Liquor for Your Palate
However, one substitution that I do condone is swapping out the Irish whiskey for another liquor. If dark rum or perhaps Kentucky bourbon is more your game then, by all means, go right ahead. I’ve even seen a bartender friend of mine use barrel-aged aquavit, though that may require a Scandinavian heritage to appreciate it.
The recipe will make you plenty of both the brown sugar syrup and cream. The syrup can be stored in the fridge for a month. It’s fantastic with tea, plain coffee, or used in cocktails. The leftover cream can be used to top any dessert or served for brunch with pancakes or waffles.
Brown Sugar Irish Coffee
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 4 ounces freshly brewed hot coffee
- 1 ounce Irish whiskey
Make the brown sugar syrup:
Place the brown sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the brown sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Make the whipped cream:
Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, or using a hand-held whisk, whisk the cream with 1/4 cup of the cooled brown sugar syrup until it hits the ribbon stage. This is when you lift your whisk and a bit of the thickened cream falls back in a ribbon, keeping its shape for a second or two before dissolving on the surface.
Make your cocktail:
Place the coffee and whiskey in an Irish coffee glass, coffee mug, or whathaveyou along with 1/2 ounce of the brown sugar syrup. (Use more or less of any of these ingredients according to your taste.) Top with plenty of the whipped cream and serve.