Friday, December 30, 2005


With the small army of Relatives and Visitors camping out at Chez Elisson this week, we have evolved a pleasant Evening Ritual.

I have taken to brewing a nice, strong pot of coffee, with which I make a boatload of Irish Coffee. There is no finer beverage on a cold, damp night: it will chase away any and all Wintry Evils. And it’s easy. Here’s how.

Brew up a pot of strong coffee, using freshly-ground beans if at all possible. The coffee must be good enough to stand on its own, and strong enough to walk around the house on its own.

For each cup of Irish Coffee, while the brewing is going on, throw in three or four cubes of Demerara sugar. I use the cubes because it’s more convenient, but suit yourself. Regular turbinado sugar is a (marginally) acceptable substitute if Demerara cannot be found.

On top of the sugar, pour in one good shot of Irish whisky. Jameson’s and Tullamore Dew both work well - the latter is a bit more full-bodied - but any good Irish whisky will work. Let this sit while you prepare the whipped cream.

Take a cup of ice-cold heavy whipping cream and add in a tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Whip (I use a hand-held drink aerator if I’m making small amounts) until the cream forms soft peaks: do NOT overbeat, or you will end up with something that tastes more like butter than cream. Feh.

Fill each cup with hot coffee, leaving a little head space for the cream. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Spoon on a nice layer of the whipped cream and you’re ready for a few choruses of “Danny Boy.”

Irish coffee is traditionally served in glass cups, the better to show off the color contrast between the dark coffee and the layer of whipped cream. But any coffee cup or mug will do, as long as it is large enough. If you have a really large mug, increase the amount of booze and sugar accordingly, and hand over your car keys.

Do NOT try to take a shortcut and use a can of Reddi-Wip to top off your Irish coffee. To do so is a crime against nature, and you will be called to account for your sins.

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