Replace Your Go-To Espresso Martini with an Irish Coffee This Month

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day—without giving up your favorite caffeinated cocktail flavor—by whipping up an Irish coffee this March.

Some people think that espresso martinis are some sort of revolutionary idea, but the Irish coffee was paving the way for caffeinated cocktails long before anyone started brewing an espresso martini. Think of the Irish coffee as the espresso martini’s older, more down-to-earth sibling—with an edge.

Sometimes you’re in the mood for a decadent treat, like an Irish coffee topped with tons of heavy whipped cream, and sometimes you want to feel like you’re on the set of Sex and the City, sipping an espresso martini out of a chic glass so you have enough energy to hit the club after dinner. Whatever your goal is, go forth and do you. Just make sure you drink these caffeinated cocktails safely and understand the effects of mixing caffeine and alcohol.

How to Make an Irish Coffee

Instead of espresso, the Irish coffee is made with traditional pour-over or drip coffee. First you add hot coffee, then stir in a bit of sugar to your liking, and, finally, top it off with a shot of whiskey and fresh or whipped cream.

Of course, there are plenty of Irish coffee variations you can try. Using an Irish whiskey like Jameson or Bushmills make the drink more authentic for some, and a few recipes suggest using coffee cream liqueurs, like Kahlúa or Baileys, for a stiffer drink. Whatever way you spin it, you need coffee, whiskey, and some kind of cream or creamer for your drink to qualify as an Irish coffee.

Irish coffee on green photo treatment

Ekaterina Molchanova / Getty Images | Design: Better Homes & Gardens

Healthier Options for Irish Coffee

Irish coffees are a tasty beverage option, particularly if you enjoy the taste of coffee, but make sure you understand the impact of this drink on your body: Mixing coffee and alcohol won’t help you get less drunk or help sober you up. In fact, mixing the two together can actually give you a worse hangover and make you more intoxicated—without you realizing it. Drinking caffeine and alcohol at the same time increase your dehydration and can contribute to an irregular heartbeat.

Because of this, you might want to stick to just one Irish coffee per outing, and then switch to a non-caffeinated alcoholic beverage if you want to keep imbibing. If you’re enjoying an Irish coffee at night and don’t want to become more alert closer to bedtime, opt for a caffeine-free Irish coffee: All you have to do is request decaf coffee in the drink. If you’re making these at home, that’s even easier to do, as not all bars will have caffeine-free coffee on-hand.

Another option is to request that your Irish coffee be made with lighter whiskey, with a lower alcohol content. Companies like First Light actually make a coffee-infused whiskey that’s perfect for Irish coffees, but it’s made with just 33% ABV, which is lighter than typical whiskeys, which typically have an alcohol content of 40 to 50%. Choosing this option will help you enjoy a lighter Irish coffee without the heavy alcohol influence.

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  1. "Dangers of mixing alcohol with caffeine and energy drinks." Centers for Disease Control.

  2. Bodar V, Chen J, Gaziano JM, Albert C, Djoussé L. "Coffee consumption and risk of atrial fibrillation in the physicians’ health study." Journal of the American Heart Associationdoi:10.1161/JAHA.118.011346

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