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The history behind the Irish coffee

Joe Sheridan was born in 1909 in Castlederg, County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. One of six sons, his family moved to Dublin after the death of his father, where he worked in a restaurant. In 1943, he applied for the job of chef at the airport in Foynes. 

Foynes and flying boats are closely connected to Irish coffee, playing a significant role in the invention of this favorite Irish treat. Of course, as with anything in Ireland, the weather played a role, too.

Sheridan’s rather concise application came in to Brendan O'Regan, simply stating, “Dear Sir, I’m the man for the job. Yours sincerely, Joe Sheridan.” 

O’Regan later said that it was the impudence of Sheridan’s application that made him decide to arrange an interview. He hired Sheridan following their meeting. 

While working for O’Regan, Chef Sheridan invented a new beverage that quickly caught on and is well-known still today: Irish coffee.

In 1943, Brendan O’Regan opened a restaurant and coffee shop in the Foynes terminal building. It quickly became regarded as one of the best restaurants in Ireland. Chef Joe Sheridan, originally from Castlederg, County Tyrone, had been recruited by O’Regan to run the kitchen.

Late one night in the winter of 1943, a flight left Foynes for New York. After flying for several hours in bad weather, the captain decided to return to Foynes to wait for safer conditions. A Morse code message was sent to the Foynes control tower to inform them of the return. Staff were called back in and the passengers were brought to the restaurant upon landing for food and drink.

When Joe was asked to prepare something to warm the weary passengers, he was inspired to put some good Irish whiskey in their coffee. One passenger approached the chef and thanked him for the wonderful coffee, asking if he used Brazilian coffee. Joe jokingly answered, “No, it was Irish coffee!”

A few weeks later, Chef Sheridan knocked on O’Regan’s office door. He showed O’Regan his new beverage in a stemmed glass and asked, “How about that for eye appeal?” O’Regan answered, “Genius, Chef!” And so was born Irish coffee!

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