There’s a reason that Irish greet each day with a chipper, “Top o’ the mornin’ to ya!” and that reason is Irish coffees. Sweet, creamy, nutty, hot and extra boozy, NYC has some of the best Irish coffee outside of Ireland (and San Francisco, which was the true birthplace of the beloved winter warmer.) Irish coffee has been a seasonal favorite for American drinkers since its invention 1952, and our fair city—with its large, deeply rooted Irish-American population, cozy bars (especially bars with fireplaces) and authentic Irish pubs—isn’t far behind. On St. Patrick’s Day (or any day), forego college-era frothy beer and raise a toast to old Erin with a slow-sipped classic Irish coffee at one of these ten bars in NYC.
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Best Irish coffees in NYC
When it comes to New York City’s bespoke bar culture, the Dead Rabbit, known for its clever, 19th-century decor and extensive, utterly creative and expertly prepared cocktails, consistently tops the list. The award-winning, multi-level grog shop pays homage to our city’s legendary Irish-American heritage with several Irish whiskey spiked concoctions. Co-founders Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry spent countless hours mastering their widely celebrated signature Irish coffee, which begins with Clontarf 1014 blended Irish whiskey combined with Sumatra Mandheling Coffee and sweetened with a half ounce of demerara syrup, warmed to a perfect 78 degrees Celsius. The finished drink is poured into a classic stemmed glass and delicately topped with lightly whipped heavy cream. Sláinte!
Venue says: “Join us during Restaurant Week every day for lunch January 22-February 9!”
The upscale gastropub’s Irish coffee has a bit of theatrical flair, where the homemade whipped cream is whisked right in front of the customer. The rest of the drink is filled out with Jameson whiskey and Coffee of Grace brew.
“Shebeen” is Gaelic for an illegal drinking establishment, but the only thing illegal at this historic Gramercy pub is just how dangerously delicious their famous Irish coffees are. From the sloppily shingled awning to the sawdust covered floors and heaping plates of corned beef and cabbage, Molly’s screams authenticity. It’s no wonder, then, that the traditional Irish tipples take center stage. Aside from a trip to the Emerald Isle itself, we’re hard pressed to think of anything more appealing on a cold winter’s night than cozying up next to this Irish dive’s ancient wood-burning fireplace with a piping hot Irish coffee in hand, leisurely letting the sweet, creamy cocktail blanket your palate with the siren-like beauty of a thousand Irish ballads.
Pull up a barstool at this beloved Brooklyn café on any given blustery night—there seem to be a lot of these in this historic dockside neighborhood—and you’ll find a grinning mix of adventuring tourists and Red Hook stalwarts bent over their glass mugs, soaking up the rich, nutty aromas rising from the bar. With a finger firmly on New York’s culinary pulse, the folks behind Fort Defiance created their recipe in response to the growing parallel interest in both quality coffee and craft cocktails, using watered-down Counter Culture espresso for the coffee base, opting for buttery Powers Irish whiskey and topping it with chilled, shaken heavy cream to intensify the drink’s velvety mouth-feel. One sip of this staple after dinner (or pre-brunch; we’re not judging), and you’ll feel fortified enough to take on any approaching Revolutionary army—or post-Ikea Manhattanites.
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Kick back, shoot some pool and stay a while at Ryan’s Daughter, Yorkville’s best down-and-dirty Irish dive. Since opening its doors in 1979, this family-owned Irish pub has fully ingrained itself in its historically German neighborhood, pouring pints of both Bitburger Pils and Guinness Stout for a nonstop crowd of adoring regulars. While you won’t find too many fancy cocktails here, those in search of something warm and mixed gravitate toward Ryan’s two takes on the standard Irish coffee. The Classic Irish Coffee blends freshly brewed java with a jigger of Irish whiskey and a spoonful of brown sugar, finished with a floating dollop of heavy cream. The sister cocktail, Daughters Coffee, incorporates a shot of Baileys Irish Cream into the recipe, making for a sweet, creamy and deceptively high-gravity nightcap.
Fraunces Tavern, lower Manhattan’s landmark restaurant and bar, is teeming with historical importance. Established in 1762 by West Indian transplant Samuel Fraunces, this pre-Revolutionary tavern wined and dined every significant New Yorker from Hamilton to Burr, famously serving as the setting for George Washington’s farewell to his Continental Army officers. While Washington and his troops were likely not downing mugs of hot Baileys, modern times call for modern measures, and visitors to this landmark pub are often found indulging in boozy Irish coffees after chowing down on slow-roasted chicken pot pie or traditional beef stew. Behind the scenes, Fraunces’ skillful barkeeps mix smooth Stumptown coffee with potent Irish whiskey (patrons have their pick of an enormous list of rare and classic options) and a dash of sugar. The heavy cream is delivered on the side for patrons to pour in themselves. Freedom never tasted to sweet.
How might an unsuspecting Polish coffee shop stationed well beyond Ridgewood’s beaten path make a best Irish coffee list? By consistently cranking out tasty, fun takes on the Gaelic standard served with a smile by their friendly, attentive staff. More like a neighborhood cafe than a raucous pub, Spolem is a writer’s dream, with plenty of tables and a plethora of outlets, making the transition from morning lattes to evening liquor has never been easier. Irish coffee comes in two forms—the traditional hot version, spiked with Irish whiskey and topped with sweet whipped cream as well as a frosty, iced coffee take on the original that tickles any drinker’s inner child with a heavy-handed shake of crunchy bright-green sprinkles. Spolem might not be the fanciest guest at the party, but it sure knows how to get down.
Known for its massively overloaded Bloody Marys, finger-lickin’ good Southern-inspired pub food and heat-beating frozen cocktails, East Williamsburg’s Sweet Science has also quietly mastered the art of the simple Irish coffee. During snowy months, this gorgeously designed corner bar—crisp white subway tile lines the walls and custom wood shelving looms over the horseshoe-shaped bar—beckons bundled up passersby with a special menu of winter warmers like hot buttered rum, toddies and, yes, velvety Irish coffee. Preparation begins with strong, locally-roasted coffee before the cocktail receives an even stronger shot of Jameson, a dash of brown sugar and is finally topped off with a heap of heavy cream. When the weather outside is frightful, leave it to Sweet Science’s take on the Irish classic to transform a regular Sunday brunch into an all-day toddy-sipping affair—just make sure to save room for the chicken and waffles.