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The Diplomat's Irish Coffee cocktail
Photograph: Courtesy The Diplomat

Drink This: Irish Coffee by The Diplomat’s John Nugent

A warming cocktail to sip at home during cold winter days
Written by
Tatum Ancheta

When cold air starts biting at the doors and windows, there's no better way to start your day than with a hot drink. And since the holidays are coming and you find yourself trapped at home, a hot booze-spiked drink might be a great idea to warm you up for the season. For cocktail inspiration, renowned mixologist John Nugent is sharing his twist to the Irish Coffee recipe, a classic comforting concoction that's been enjoyed since the 1940s. 

Known for putting innovative twists on old classics, John entered the Hong Kong bar scene in 2017 as the head mixologist for the now-closed Lily & Bloom. This year, he opened his first independent venture, The Diplomat, and even with the continuous challenges of the year, his bar has become the watering hole for people hankering for after-work drinks in Soho's hip and happening H Code.  

"Irish Coffee is not necessarily associated with Christmas, but people love it because it is a hot drink," John shares. Made with coffee and whiskey, the Irish Coffee was created on a stormy winter night in Foynes, one of Europe’s biggest airports located in the wild west coast of Ireland in 1942. According to history, a young chef named Joe Sheridan created the drink to warm delayed airline passengers, since then the Irish Coffee was born. 

With the arrival of winter, a nice cup of Irish Coffee mug is pleasurable to sip on. "The cocktail has always been synonymous with cold weather," John adds. "I love straightforward cocktails (or with puns), so this one is no different. It's definitely one of our favourites to serve during the colder months. It just makes sense. It's a great drink to have at 1pm on a Saturday but isn't weird after a nice meal either. It's a classic for a reason, and we are excited to serve it in The Diplomat. The difference with ours is we add a touch of Cognac to give the drink a luscious nutty flavour, and add raw demerara sugar which adds a full-bodied flavour as opposed to just being a sweetener," he explains. 

To taste John's twist to the Irish Coffee, drop by at The Diplomat to order it from the menu, and they will prepare it for you. To enjoy it at home, follow the recipe below:

Photograph: Ben Marans/The Diplomat


30ml Jameson Irish Whiskey
15ml Martell VSOP
15ml demerara sugar syrup (2 parts sugar:1 part water)
120ml hot coffee (The Diplomat uses coffee at 80 degree Celsius)
Cold whipped cream
(optional Cognac)

Make the cocktail:
1) Pour the hot coffee and demerara sugar syrup in a heatproof glass or mug, and stir.
2) Add the Irish whiskey and Martell VSOP. Stir again.
3) Top up with cold whipped cream.
4) Serve!

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