After soliciting answerable questions from myriad colleagues and cohorts, the Essefficist has some doozies to work with this week. (But don't let that stop you from sending in some of your own.) Having our pick of the litter, we felt it was only fitting to kick off March with an Irish-themed question, what with St. Patrick's Day less than three weeks away and all.

So let us now return to the barren moors of the windswept hamlet of Berkeley, whence hails this pancake:

I once visited the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco and they seemed to be laying claim to the invention of the Irish Coffee. I was skeptical, but when I visited Dublin, Ireland and ordered an Irish Coffee, the bartender, muttering something like "a waste of perfectly good whiskey," proceeded to make the drink with Sanka, which is so wrong I can't even begin to describe why. So what's the story? Is the SF version the real deal, or does the Emerald Isle really have a version that predates the Buena Vista's? And if so, did Americans screw up the recipe to make it palatable to Yanks? I'm going to be pouring Baileys into espresso until I know the scoop.

Mr. Drunken Jitters

Hey, Mr. DJ, cap that Baileys, 'cause we've got the lowdown for you. Your Irish bartender seems to have drunken a bit too much whiskey himself; Irish Coffee--hot coffee, sugar, whiskey, and fresh whipped cream in a warm stemmed glass--is in fact Irish, not San Franciscan. While it is true that the Buena Vista Cafe had a lot to do with popularizing the drink, they did not actually invent it (nor do they claim to have done so). Irish Coffee was actually invented around 1942 by a chef named Joe Sheridan at a restaurant in the air terminal in Foynes, a seaport in the west of Ireland and destination and stopover for early transatlantic flights, near the current site of Shannon Airport. Passengers would disembark freezing and miserable after up to eighteen hours in the frigid non-pressurized cabins of the flying boats, or seaplanes, that made the trip in those days. Sheridan concocted the drink to warm them up and settle them down. (It should be noted that even if the idea of mixing coffee and whiskey may not appeal to some, like your surly bartender, DJ, it certainly isn't a waste, especially if you're suffering a stroke.)

So why does everyone think that Irish Coffee was invented here? And why is it associated so strongly with the Buena Vista Cafe?

Hey Essefficist,