Saint Patrick's Day

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Enjoy Irish coffee this St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick's Day is synonymous with many things, most notably the jovial atmosphere of the various events celebrating both the life of St. Patrick and Irish culture.

New York City's St. Patrick's Day celebrations are known for the Big Apple's impressive parade up Fifth Avenue, while few who have partaken of Patty's Day festivities in Chicago can forget the green Chicago River. Celebrations may vary from city to city, but it's a good bet that celebrants will hear some traditional Irish music, enjoy a pint of Guinness and/or join the masses wearing green wherever they end up this St. Patrick's Day.

Drinking Irish coffee is another St. Patrick's Day tradition many revelers enjoy. Few may indulge in Irish coffee throughout the year, but this special concoction can be a great way to warm up after attending a St. Patrick's Day parade in the often chilly March temperatures.

Cocktails made with coffee date back quite far, but Irish coffee does not have to go back too far to trace its history. In the mid-20th century, chef Joe Sheridan was working in Foynes, County Limerick when a group of United States-bound travelers found themselves stranded due to inclement weather that grounded their plane. Whether he was trying to warm them up or wake them up after their ordeal, Sheridan served the passengers coffee with a little bit of Irish whiskey mixed in. When the group inquired as to what they were drinking, Sheridan reportedly told them, "that's Irish coffee."

Irish coffee has now taken on many variations across the globe, but those who want a more traditional taste of Irish coffee this St. Patrick's Day can prepare the following recipe courtesy of A.J. Rathbun's "Good Spirits" (Harvard Common Press).

Irish Coffee

11⁄2 ounces Irish whiskey

1⁄2 ounce Simple Syrup (see below)

6 ounces fresh hot coffee

Whipped cream (optional)

1. Add the whiskey and simple syrup to a mug.

2. Fill the mug with hot coffee. If that something extra is desired, top with whipped cream.

Simple Syrup

Makes 41⁄2 cups

21⁄2 cups water

3 cups sugar

1. Add the water and sugar to a medium-size saucepan. Stirring occasionally, bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat a bit, keeping the mixture at a low boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Turn off the heat, and let the syrup cool completely in the pan. Store in a clean, airtight container in the refrigerator.