When I think of St. Patrick’s Day, I automatically think beer and the color green. While those things are great, because Southern California has been rainy and overcast, I’m not exactly in the ice-cold-beer mood. As a more weather-appropriate alternative, I suggest we perk it up this St. Paddy’s Day by drinking a hot cup of authentic Irish coffee. Mmm.
But before I share the recipe, I thought I’d quickly explain why in the world we celebrate this holiday. I’ve always heard that St. Patrick’s Day is an Americanized reappropriation that Irish people don’t actually celebrate. But that’s not entirely true.
You all probably know that March 17 commemorates St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland — but there’s a little more to the tale. The story* goes that in the late 4th century, when St. Patrick was 16 years old, he was kidnapped from Great Britain and taken to Ireland to be a slave. While he was there in captivity, he found God, and after six years, he escaped back to Great Britain. He became a priest and years later returned to Ireland to convert the Irish people to Christianity. After approximately 30 years of preaching and building churches, monasteries, and schools, he passed away on March 17. Since then, with that day as an official religious holiday, the Irish remember the anniversary of his death by traditionally attending church before feasting, drinking, and dancing.
That’s the jist of it. Another interesting fact: According to Irish legend, St. Patrick used a shamrock, a three-leafed plant, to illustrate the Trinity — which explains the symbol of the lucky shamrock (and where in the world McDonald’s got its Shamrock Shake).
So how did this religious holiday become associated with beer and partying? Well, the reason we even celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S. stems from the Irish immigrants.** When the Great Famine hit Europe in 1845, almost two million Irish refugees immigrated to America. And when two million foreigners land upon your shores seeking food and housing — well, you can imagine how well that went... The Irish were immediately discriminated against for being diseased (inevitable after being crammed onto ships for months), for their unfamiliar accents, and for being Catholic, poor, and “low-class.” So, when St. Patrick’s Day came around, they started to secularize it by celebrating with revelry and fierce pride for their Irish heritage. They had huge parties and parades — and even that was looked down on at first, with everyone calling them violent drunks and pretty much dehumanizing them. But as their numbers grew, so did their power and influence. Over time, their celebrations began drawing in people of all nationalities … and the rest is history.
In the end, St. Patrick’s Day is still an Irish holiday, but Irish Americans were the ones that started the whole drink-copious-amounts-of-beer and wear-green thing. Now, it’s celebrated mainly in the U.S. (which has the biggest parties, because of course), Canada, and Australia. Even Ireland goes all out to attract tourists, though their celebrations are focused a little more on Irish pride than, well, debauchery.
So now you know! The Irish have come a long way from being foreigners and outcasts, and now they’re an essential part of American history. So, as promised, here is the recipe to make an authentic cup of Irish coffee. Here’s to you, my Irish friends.
Original Irish Coffee Recipe
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1.5 oz (or 3 tablespoons) of Irish whiskey
Heavy cream, slightly whipped
Fill a mug with hot water to preheat it (traditionally a glass mug).
Pour piping-hot coffee into the warmed glass until it’s about ¾ full.
Add the brown sugar, and stir until it’s dissolved.
Blend in Irish whiskey to taste.
Top the coffee with a collar of cream by pouring it gently over the back of a spoon.
For a classic version, I suggest using Jameson whiskey. It’s trustworthy, and it’s really easy to find in stores. For a short guide on which whiskey to buy based on how you take your drinks, Supercall has a great list, perfect for whether you prefer it spicy, rich, or smooth.
Cheers! Or as the Irish say, sáinte (slawnt-cha)!
For more St. Paddy’s Day inspo, check out our Pinterest board. Stay safe tomorrow, everyone. And Happy St. Patrick's Day from Smoosh and this wee lil pup!