Even though most people know San Francisco as a hub for delicious food and wine, the city's bar scene is arguably second to none. Mixology has always been a part of San Francisco culture and bartenders often create imaginative drinks made from lesser known spirits, bitters, and mixers that put a classic dirty martini to shame. While there is a lot of dispute behind the origins of one particular drink, the Irish Coffee, there isn't much doubt that the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco put this spiked concoction on the map.
Who invented Irish Coffee?
One version of the story says that a chef in Shannon, Ireland added whiskey to coffee in order to help warm passengers debarking from a cold Pan Am flight in the 1940s. According to the Buena Vista Cafe, a travel writer working for the San Francisco Chronicle sampled Irish Coffee and was determined to bring it to the Bay Area (presumably to help stave off the chill from the city's foggy summers and rainy winters.) After several test batches, possibly a few hangovers, and a little help from the city's mayor who owned a dairy and suggested using a certain type of cream to help make the drink stand out, the Buena Vista Cafe began serving their perfected Irish Coffee on November 10, 1952.
Find the Buena Vista in Fisherman's Wharf
Originally a ramshackle saloon for sardine fisherman in the 19th century, the Buena Vista Cafe (called the "BV" by locals) has improved its standing over the years since bringing Irish Coffee to San Francisco. Bartenders have served up over 30 million Irish Coffees to customers at the now-famous cafe, which sits near Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf on the corner of Beach and Hyde Streets.
While it's impossible to truly copy an Irish Coffee from the Buena Vista, the cafe does offer instructions if you'd like to try and replicate your experience at home.
- Preheat a glass (tumblers or hot toddy glasses work best) using a steamer or very hot water, then empty.
- Pour regular, hot coffee into the glass till it's about three-quarters full. Add two sugar cubes. Stir till the sugar is dissolved.
- Add a full jigger (1 shot) of Irish Whiskey.
- Pour lightly whipped cream over a spoon to top off the drink.
- Enjoy piping hot!