Irish coffee is an ideal drink any time of year — Photo courtesy of MarianVejcik / iStock Via Getty Images

One of the best and easiest hot cocktails to make, an Irish coffee is so much more than a drink to toss back on St Patrick’s Day. Made of four simple ingredients, most importantly Irish whiskey and coffee, it’s the perfect warmer and pick-me-up any time of year.

But like any proper cocktail, getting the ingredients and measurements right assures a perfect drink. Belfast native Jack McGarry, managing director of The Dead Rabbit in New York City, helped perfect the Irish coffee recipe for the famed bar, where it’s the house drink. It must be good: Thousands are served every year.

What are the main ingredients of Irish coffee?

Despite the time McGarry’s invested in crafting this cocktail, he says that creating an Irish coffee is not as much of a challenge as it seems. “It’s all about balance, and using the right ingredients. The right whiskey, coffee, sugar, and cream. They all need to work together,” he adds.

The Dead Rabbit’s Irish coffee features Bushmills, a triple-distilled whiskey with a unique combination of smoothness and richness that doesn’t overpower the other ingredients. Using a whiskey with a high grain content lightens Irish coffee, keeping it from becoming a cocktail that takes an excessive time to drink.

Other things to keep in mind when creating a perfect Irish coffee: Swap in demerara sugar, which naturally contains molasses, for a richer flavor; use only fresh coffee, not burnt or overly strong coffee; and fresh whipped cream makes all the difference. And keep it limited to a six-ounce glass — anything too big, and you’re more apt to throw off the balance of ingredients.

Here are three Irish coffee recipes, both hot and cold, to sip whenever you need it.

How to make The Dead Rabbit Irish coffee

The Dead Rabbit Irish coffee is an iconic drink any time of yearThe Dead Rabbit Irish coffee is an iconic drink any time of year — Photo courtesy of Liz Clayman for The Dead Rabbit

With so many ways to go wrong, it pays to follow in the footsteps of those who know what they’re doing. Here’s how to recreate The Dead Rabbit’s famous Irish coffee.

1 ounce Bushmills Original Irish Whiskey
3/4 ounce demerara syrup*
4 ounce hot filtered coffee
Heavy cream

Directions: In a 6-ounce coffee glass, combine the first three ingredients, leaving a half-inch space at the top for cream. Top with freshly whipped heavy cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

In lieu of having a tulip-shaped glass a la The Dead Rabbit, stick with any 6-ounce glass or even a mug. A glass is best, though, at least for the layered aesthetics.

* To make the demerara syrup, in a small to medium saucepan, combine equal parts sugar and water. Let it warm over medium heat; do not boil. Remove from the heat when the sugar has dissolved. The syrup will keep for up to three weeks in the refrigerator.

The Dead Rabbit recipe for an Irish coffee martini

The Dead Rabbit's version of an espresso martini goes IrishThe Dead Rabbit’s version of an espresso martini goes Irish — Photo courtesy of Liz Clayman for The Dead Rabbit

Everyone loves an espresso martini, and some might say it’s even better made with Irish whiskey. Here’s The Dead Rabbit’s version of an Irish coffee martini, courtesy of McGarry.

2 dashes Cacao Angostura Bitters
1/2 ounce demerera syrup
1 1/2 ounce espresso
1/2 ounce Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur
1 1/2 ounce The Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey*

Directions: In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the first five ingredients and shake. Strain and serve in a chilled coupe or martini glass. *In lieu of The Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey, Bushmills will do.

A Tullamore D.E.W. iced Irish coffee recipe

An iced Irish coffee is a nice diversion from the typical hot variant, especially for those wishing to sip one in warmer climates. Here’s one from Tullamore D.E.W., a smooth, triple-blended Irish whiskey.

2 parts Tullamore D.E.W. Original Irish Whiskey
3 parts cold brew coffee
2 teaspoons demerara sugar
Fresh cream

Pour Tullamore D.E.W. Original, cold brew coffee, and demerara sugar into a highball glass. Shake the cream in a shaker until it’s thickened and then layer over the drink. Garnish with a grating of nutmeg and enjoy.

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