Watch how to make the Dead Rabbit’s Irish Coffee recipe

Story by Sam Bygrave
Photography by Christopher Pearce
Presented by David Nguyen-Luu, The Duke of Clarence, Sydney
In association with Tullamore D.E.W.

Long before there was the Espresso Martini, one coffee and alcohol drink ruled them all: the Irish Coffee.

There’s a long history of pairing booze with coffee; the Italians have their Caffe Corretto (which is coffee ‘corrected’ with grappa or some other hooch); the Spanish have their Carajillo; and just about anywhere someone has access to coffee and access to booze, at some point those two are coming into contact.

The Irish Coffee is a simple drink: it’s black coffee, Irish whiskey, and a hit of cream on top. But there are good recipes and there are bad recipes, and there are best practice ways to make it.

The version you’ll find at New York’s Dead Rabbit is about as good as you’ll find anywhere, though, and back in July Sydney’s The Duke of Clarence adopted their recipe for use, too.

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“We had Jillian Vose, the Dead Rabbit beverage director, come through last month and guide us through the famed Irish coffee,” says general manager David Nguyen-Luu.

“It is a simple drink, but you can stuff it up as such. This is purely demerara syrup, Tullamore D.E.W. whiskey, filter coffee and whipped cream,” he says.

But with simple drinks, it’s how you prepare them that matters most, and Nguyen-Luu picked up some great tips from Vose.

“The whipped cream is a very vital factor of it — [Vose] has specified a certain fat percentage whipped cream, the coffee blend has to be a nice mild blend, and the demerara syrup must be at 2:1,” he says.

You’ve also got to get the amount of whiskey just right, he says.

“Tullamore D.E.W. goes fantastically in it. A lot of people have different specs, whether it’s a 30ml or 45ml — this is actually a 35ml pour and that extra five millilitres does make a massive difference, and the flavours of Tullamore really come through and shine,” says Nguyen-Luu.

The secret trick to the Dead Rabbit version, however, is temperature.

“The temperature of the coffee is very important,” says Nguyen-Luu. “We follow Dead Rabbit’s [recipe], and they specifically go for 78.5 degrees Celsius for the coffee. Irish Coffee has a great balance between the different textures of it — the mix of the hot and cold elements work really well. It’s why this is such a smooth drink. The cream has to be absolutely ice cold, and then the coffee at 78.5 degrees. We’ve got a little water bath circulator that we set at that temperature, so it’s the same temperature every day.”

1: Add the Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey.
2: Add the coffee and demerara sugar.
3: Whip the cream.
4: Float the cold whipped cream on top.
5: Add an optional grating of nutmeg if desired.
6: Serve.

Notes on ingredients

  • Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey is triple distilled and aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks.
  • The whiskey is a blend of grain whiskey (which lends a floral and biscuity character), pot still whiskey (which adds a spicy note) and malt whiskey (which complements the whiskey’s citrus characters).
  • You’ll find light, sweet citrus and green apple aromas on the nose underlined by notes of vanilla, with fresh fruit and toasted wood on the palate, leading to a buttery, mellow finish.
  • Tullamore D.E.W. is distributed by William Grant & Sons.