There might be certain instances when an Irish coffee is more suitable than others: a cold winter evening, perhaps, or in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. In truth, there’s really no wrong time to order the traditional Irish cocktail as long as it’s made with care. The cocktail came to Los Angeles via San Francisco’s Buena Vista Café, when columnist Stanton Delaplane shared the recipe with Tom Bergin’s Public House. But the famed Irish pub on Fairfax isn’t the only one worth checking out: You can find other luxurious Irish coffees in whiskey bars and other jaunts around town. Whether you’re looking for a satisfying hair-of-the-dog drink in the morning or an easy nightcap in the evening, here’s where to find Irish coffees in L.A.
RECOMMENDED: Our guide to cocktails in Los Angeles
Where to find the best Irish coffee in L.A.
It’s back, baby: After months of closure, the self-proclaimed first spot in L.A. to serve Irish coffee is in full swing and under new ownership. It was allegedly Joe Sheridan who invented the cocktail at Shannon International Airport in Ireland in 1938; years later, in 1952, travel writer Stanton Delaplane brought the recipe back to San Francisco’s Buena Vista Café—then shared it with Tom Bergin’s a few weeks later, or so the story goes. Today, the Irish pub uses Tullamore Dew whiskey in its version, resulting in a smooth, creamy cocktail with a serious kick. During St. Patrick’s Day, the pub’s over-the-top party tends to crank out thousands of Irish coffees every year, but you can enjoy an excellent one throughout the year, too.
You can always ask for an Irish coffee at Big Bar, and here’s why you should: Alcove Café and Bakery occupies the other half of this cozy, repurposed Craftsman home, and it serves excellent Fonté coffee (plus killer pastries). The Big Bar team is one of the strongest in the city, and uses Alcove’s always-fresh brews, then hand-whips cream to order for a soft, pillowy, almost foam-like topping—best with one of those pastries from next door, if you ask us. When it’s too hot for a hot drink, take advantage of the weather and this spot’s great patio with the Irish Bump, Big Bar’s cold-brew version of the cocktail, and be on the lookout for Irish coffee specials every year around St. Paddy’s. (Irish coffee topped with Jägermeister foam, anyone?)
Here is what we love about the Auld Dubliner: The menu doesn’t dabble in Irish dishes and drinks, it full-on embraces them, hot or cold. The Traditional Irish Coffee comes soul-warming and made with Tullamore Dew, demerara sugar, freshly whipped cream and nutmeg to make you feel like you’re having a drink in Ireland, or you can order it chilled, in true California fashion. Stop in throughout the week for live music, dominated by Celtic “Shamrockabilly” artists for an even more authentic feel.
Even if you’ve never been to Casey’s, you’re probably familiar with the sprawling, dark-wood-everything bar: It’s served as the set for just about every pub-focused scene on television in the last 20 years. The traditional hot Irish coffee is fantastic here, but their Irish Hello is just as enticing: Made with Jameson Irish Whiskey, iced coffee and espresso, demerara syrup and cream, it’s a cooler version that combats sweltering L.A. afternoons spent Downtown.
At this spacious country tavern, grand iron chandeliers and wall lamps illuminate British paraphernalia on the walls, red leather booths and two dark wood-paneled bars and dining room. A friendly and helpful staff serve up a full bar of beer, wine, spirits and a stellar selection of specialty cocktails, including the Coffee Nudgie. This drink takes some liberties with a more traditional Irish coffee, using Jack Daniels, hot coffee, Galliano Ristretto coffee liqueur and whipped cream. They have a solid original version, too, if you can’t get past the Jack Daniels.
Opened in 2007, Seven Grand is arguably the city’s premier destination for whiskey lovers; its atmosphere is of another era, one where hard-drinking businessmen escaped the doldrums of suburban existence and hung up their hats to drink, smoke and play pool. You can ask for a hot Irish coffee any day of the week, but keep an eye out for their iced coffee version, which uses Jameson whiskey, cold brew, cream and sugar. It’s sweet, refreshing and strong all at once—and gives you enough liquid courage to challenge a stranger to a pool match.
Whether you’re a Philippe’s fan or Cole’s French-dip enthusiast, one thing is for sure: Cole’s is where you go for cocktails. It’s also got the ambiance—as one of L.A.’s oldest-operating public houses, this dim-lit restaurant and bar is lined with old-timey photos and antiques, leather booths and even a special nook in honor of longtime-fan and crime boss Mickey Cohen. His booth is the perfect place to sip a Cole’s Irish coffee (his nickname was “Irish Mickey,” after all) and if there's still fresh daily cold brew by the time you hit the bar, the classic cocktail can also be ordered, like a mob hit, on ice.
Talk about teamwork! Menotti’s Coffee Stop and Townhouse are neighbors, so it’s no surprise that they’re happy to share customers. Grab some coffee at Menotti’s and bring it over to Townhouse, where you can get it spiked with Irish whiskey, coffee liqueur, whipped cream, syrup and nutmeg.
Those looking for a sweeter taste of the Irish can head to 189 by Dominique Ansel, sitting pretty in the Grove, where their bar makes its own Irish cream. Downstairs in the bakery you can always find fresh-made cookie shots lined with chocolate and filled with Madagascar-vanilla milk, but upstairs in the restaurant, you can sip the grown-up version. Enjoy the cool blend of whiskey, cream, condensed milk and a bit of cocoa powder, all served in a warm cookie—drink the Irish cream, nibble the cookie, repeat.