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Aviation and the Origin of Irish Coffee

My wife and I had a spare day in Ireland, so we wandered around the sorts of back roads and small towns that make Ireland truly special. We were far away from the big tourist attractions of the Emerald Isle. Dublin, Blarney Castle, and the Ring of Kerry were in our rear-view mirror.

We found ourselves in County Limerick, meandering our way up the west coast of Ireland with our sights set on Kinvara, where we had a B&B for the night. A flyer in one of those generic small town Tourist Information Centers caught my eye – the Foynes Flying Boat Museum.


Before I quit my job to travel the world, I was a pilot in my spare time, flying a (very) small, homebuilt 2-seat airplane. But with a range of only 500 miles, it was never going to let me see the world. I gave up flying for travel. Now with an aviation museum so close, I couldn't resist. We headed for Foynes.

The museum itself is a bit pricey at €10, but it is an interesting lesson in the very short-lived golden age of flying boats. Foynes was an ideal landing spot for the large passenger seaplanes crossing the Atlantic. It was close to North America, and the estuary protected the flying boats from the vicious wind and seas of the north Atlantic. Even so, the flights would often have to turn back in bad weather. They would burn too much fuel fighting the headwinds. They had no choice but to return to Foynes and wait out the weather.


On one night in the winter of 1942, a flight left Foynes heading for Botwood, Newfoundland, then on to New York City. But Irish weather is dubious during the best of times. During winter, it is downright awful. A few hours into the flight, battling a storm somewhere over the North Atlantic, the pilot (whose name has long since been forgotten in the turning pages of history) decided to turn back. The flying boat returned to Foynes, the passengers nearly as wet and miserable as the weather.

Chef Joe Sheridan was in charge of the Foynes restaurant that night, and he got the unfortunate job of providing food to the passengers forced to disembark on the wrong side of the Atlantic. He brewed a batch of coffee, but decided it needed something a bit extra. He added a bit of whiskey, some brown sugar, and floated cream on top.

Legend has it that one passenger, sipping the new drink for the first time, asked Sheridan, “Is this Brazilian coffee?” Sheridan replied, “No, this is Irish Coffee.” A new drink was born.


To make an authentic Irish Coffee, fill a mug 3/4 full with hot black coffee. Add a tablespoon of brown sugar and stir until it all dissolves. Pour in a jigger of Irish whiskey (about one shot). Then add lightly whipped heavy cream, pouring it in over the back of a spoon so it floats on top. Enjoy!



Profile photo of Oren Liebermann

Before I quit my job to travel the world, I was a tv news reporter working in Philadelphia. My wife and I decided we really wanted to travel, so we both left our jobs and started moving. We began our adventure in Europe in September 2013, seeing some of the big cities and historical landmarks. From there, we will keep moving east, trying to stop in as many places as possible to absorb the culture, taste the food, and meet the people. The goal is to travel for at least a year. If we're able to travel longer, we certainly will!! There's too much to see in this world, and we haven't seen enough of it.Hopefully we'll be able to inspire others to travel and maybe even share some useful tips about certain places or regions. We'd love to meet you on the road if you're around! We're far away from friends and family, so every stranger we meet is a chance to form a new friendship and learn about a new place.We try to take as many pictures as possible (then weed through them all pick out the good ones to share). We hope you enjoy our posts and our blog!

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