Irish Coffee Making at the World-Famous Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco

irish coffee

“We serve around 2,000 Irish Coffees a day,” Nicholas proudly stated. When asked what happens on Saint Patrick’s Day, he answered “Oh, around 4,000 or more!”

The Buena Vista Cafe, located near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, is a legend; in fact I’ve heard stories about it in Ireland. The story of the Cafe’s fame goes back to 1952, where the owner Jack Koeppler challenged a travel writer by the name of Stanton Delaplane, to help re-create the delicious concoction that was served at the Shannon Airport in Ireland. After many tries, something just still wasn’t right; Jack, now making the challenge personal, flew to Ireland with the determination to perfect the sought-after drink.

Once Jack returned, he and Stanton found the perfect balance of coffee, whiskey and served the duo in a heat-treated goblet with a sugar cube. Even the mayor was involved in the process, as he was a dairy owner, and helped to perfect the cream which adorns the top of the Irish delight. The group of heaven-sent men found that by aging the cream for 48 hours and frothing to the right consistency, the cream delicately floated on the now perfected concoction.

Now, I’ve had my share of Irish Coffees throughout Ireland, and after finally enjoying one at the infamous Buena Vista Cafe, I can honestly say this tiny historical spot in San Francisco has it locked as the BEST Irish Coffee around. Sitting and watching the bartenders pour rows of coffees at a time, each as perfect as the next, is incredible. My favorite part of the Irish Coffee making was Nicholas’ flick he gave each cup, ensuring each coffee was at an equal level, or as I like to call it “The Nick Flick.” (Can we all get onboard of #TheNickFlick movement?!) While other bartenders didn’t take part in flicking unwanted coffee out of the goblets, it is definitely Nicholas’ signature touch and a reason to enjoy the process that much more.


For those of you who aren’t fans of whiskey, I highly suggest the Nutty Irishman, a delicious harmony between Bailey’s and Frangelico hazelnut liqueur.
When the bartender Nicholas poured one for me, he slid the drink in front of me, held on to it for a second, and with a concerned yet serious look on his face said, “this drink will leave a strong emotional impact on you; you must enjoy it with a big sip, and promise me, no more stalkers.”

The Nutty Irishman is heaven in a cup, and after the perfect Irish Coffee and a few Guinness, it’s the perfect ending to a perfect Irish night at the place credited for introducing the Irish Coffee to the United States!

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About The Roaming Bean (109 Articles)
You're probably wondering what the heck is a "Roaming Bean"... Given that I am clearly not a Bean, and my name is Jen, what gives with this Bean thing, right? A friend of mine called me JenBean as a child, and it kinda stuck. Actually, it really stuck... even my license plate says Jenbean. And seeing as I have this grand lust to wander the world, The Roaming Bean seemed suitable. I've changed my career path more times than I have my underwear (minus all the times I've gone commando).... from animating, to forensic pathology, to international business, to fashion marketing and even to my wonderful and favorite of the bunch, degree in culinary arts, nothing kept my attention. Nothing was fun enough to do every day for the rest of my life. I mean, even though I cooked for celebrities in the heart of Hollywood, CA, why the hell would I want to sweat my ass off in a ridiculously HOT kitchen for most of the day and go home smelling like beef and onions? And the chef hat?? Do you know what that did to my hair?? Enter traveling.... The rainy day I descended down the tower of Notre Dame in Paris, gripping on to the railing for dear life so not to slip and tumble to an early death from the torrential down pour that was causing a small flood in the stairwell, my life changed. When I safely made it to the ground, legs shaky from an apparent lack of fitness it requires to walk up and down 387 steep stairs, I realized my hands were stained a delightful copper color from the rusted hand rail I had so dearly clung to. Desperate to get the icky stuff off my supple hands, and no running water in sight, I did what any other hopeless idiot would have done: I washed my hands in the nearest Parisian gutter. It was that moment that changed my life... I threw away my hair dryer, my rolling luggage and my dignity. I let my hair go natural, I bought a back pack and I CAMPED through Europe for a month and a half. Yes my friends, I crossed over into a savage traveling beast. Ok, a lot of people travel that way. But I didn't. And I'm so incredibly thankful for that rainy day in Paris that made me realize the world is a pretty sweet place. That realization led me on a quest; a quest to get out there, see things, soak up some local culture and eat my way around the world (with minimal food-related illnesses, such as but not limited to raging diarrhea).

5 Comments on Irish Coffee Making at the World-Famous Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco

  1. I every time spent my half an hour to read this website’s articles daily along with
    a mug of coffee.

  2. Why haven’t I been here? And thanks for mentioning the Nutty Irishman; it’s more my style.

  3. LOVE the Buena Vista and visit it every time I am in SF. They are the masters of making Irish Coffee! Love how they pour the whiskey from high above the glass. 🙂

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