Drink of the Week: Irish Coffee

Give or take a few destructive and heat-increasing Santa Ana winds, relatively chilly weather is settling in, even here in Southern California. So, I suppose it’s finally time to take on what I consider to be the king of hot cocktails. Still, what a blow to my ego to discover that, not only have I had some difficulty pulling off this most delicious of drinks, but that I’ve mostly been drinking it wrong, too! I’ve finally learned that Irish coffee tastes even better if you don’t stir in that pretty layer of unsweetened cream floating on the top. And for all these years I thought floating the cream was just a presentation thing.

Irish CoffeeA true cocktail classic, Irish coffee might be hard for amateurs like me to pull off, but it’s also not so easy to provide a concise history. The most widely accepted version is that it was developed by chef Joseph Sheridan of Ireland’s Shannon Airport, who came up with the idea of adding whiskey to coffee to warm the cockles and other parts of travelers on bitter cold winter nights. Then, the story goes that Pulitzer Prize-winning travel journalist Stanton Delaplane brought the concept back home with him from an early 1950s trip to Ireland and reverse engineered the beverage with the help of the proprietors of San Francisco’s Buena Vista Cafe. Just to muddy the waters, though, L.A.’s temporarily closed Fairfax Blvd. landmark, Tom Bergin’s Tavern, also claims to be the American popularizer of the beverage.

No doubt people in San Francisco will hiss when they read the above, because that’s what they do in S.F. whenever you mention Los Angeles in any context. I can hardly blame San Franciscans, though, for wanting to claim credit. Irish coffee is an amazing beverage which I’ve greatly enjoyed in both Southern and Northern California, not to mention New Orleans and maybe I’ll have it in Ireland some day. There’s nothing like the combo of caffeine and alcohol and this tastes immensely better than vodka and Red Bull. So, enough vamping, here’s the wondrous but tricky (for me) to pull off recipe.

Irish Coffee

5-6 ounces very hot coffee
2 teaspoons sugar (preferably brown)
1.5 ounces Irish whiskey
Unsweetened, lightly whipped cream

Using a whisk or whatever device you have handy, lightly whip heavy cream until it is very frothy, which I admit is easier said than done. Set aside.

Get a glass coffee mug, but since you probably don’t have one, use a reasonably large wine glass, which also works beautifully. It’s best to heat the glass by putting in very hot water or holding it over steaming water if you’re afraid of breaking it. That may not be 100 percent essential if you do as I do and drip the coffee directly into the glass using a Melitta-style filter. Stir your sugar into the coffee thoroughly.

Then spoon — do not pour — the cream onto the top of the coffee. (You can also try pouring the whipped cream over the back of a spoon, but that didn’t work for me at all.) Sip the coffee through the layer of cream on top. And for James Joyce’s sake, don’t stir it!

*****

I’ve probably attempted this six times at home and I’ve managed to get this drink right precisely once. Getting that heavy cream whipped enough so that it sits atop the coffee and doesn’t simply combine with it has been tricky for me, to say the least. More than once I considered the coward’s way out — sugar-laden canned whipped cream. It would definitely be easier.

Some imply that if you simply pour heavy cream unwhipped over the back of a spoon it will somehow work. I’m here to tell you every time I tried the back of a spoon thing it failed to create the desired effect, whether or not I’d pre-whipped the cream. I’m not saying the results tasted bad, but they’re not nearly as heavenly as sipping the coffee through the cream. If you can manage to get it exactly the way I did that one time, it’s just the best warming pick-me-up/make-me-happy there is. If you’re really feeling lazy, though, a shot of Bushmills neat with a coffee chaser (or any chaser) isn’t so bad, either.

  

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Driving with Dodge in San Francisco

I was invited by Chrysler to join other bloggers in San Francisco for the opportunity to drive some of the new Dodge vehicles. As you can see from the photos above, we had a beautiful day in the city by the bay, and I had a great time with this impressive new lineup.

The Dodge Charger is the flagship vehicle for the Dodge brand, and the Charger has been completely redesigned from the ground up for the 2011 model year. The iconic feel of the vehicle remains, but you can see the new, sleeker design in the first photo above and in the other Charger photos. It offers a sport sedan that I think will have huge appeal for guys looking for performance, aggressive styling and value. The car was a joy to drive through the winding roads in the Bay area, as the new suspension lived up to the promise. For a car that starts at $25,995, buyers will get tremendous value.

The real treat of the day was the 2011 Dodge Challenger. I had the opportunity to drive one of the Inaugural Edition versions of the 2011 Challenger SRT8 392. This car is beautiful as you can see from the slideshow above, with the white paint and the blue racing stripes, and it’s the ultimate American muscle car. Frankly, I can’t remember a car I enjoyed driving more than this one. The car is a torque monster – the 392 Hemi is rated at 470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. I drove the automatic version, and this car is a beast! When you hit the gas at any speed, this car does exactly what you want it to do as it respond with a muscular roar. It handles beautifully as well, and any car enthusiast will fall in love with this 2011 Challenger.

While the Challenger and Charger stole the show, I was equally impressed with the other vehicles in the Dodge lineup. Dodge brought back the Durango, and this full-size SUV should be a real hit. The 2011 Durango has all the luxuries customers are becoming accustomed to in the crossover segment, but this SUV is the real deal as it still leads its class in towing capacity. Meanwhile, the handling is much better than previous versions of the vehicle, so you don’t feel like you’re driving a big truck.

In the crossover segment, the 2011 Journey should do very well in this exploding segment. Many in our group were impressed with how this car drove, and Dodge added some nice features including optional third-row seating that folds up or down depending on your needs. It’s a nice feature for families with young children.

In all the vehicles, Dodge has placed a new emphasis on the interiors and it shows. The goal for the brand is to over-deliver and provide real value for the cost of a vehicle, and you’re finally seeing Dodge live up to that promise. I loved the interior in each of the vehicles, and I think customers will feel the same way once they test drive these cars.

After San Francisco we joined the Chrysler team as they unveiled their new vehicles at the LA Auto Show where we had the opportunity to join in on a round-table discussion with Dodge CEO Ralph Gilles. Ralph is a true car enthusiast and you can see the passion he has for the new lineup.

Check back as we’ll be publishing full reviews of each of these cars, but I would recommend that you take the time to drive them. Each of the Dodge cars combines muscular styling with an impressive driver experience, and I suspect many drivers will be pleasantly surprised as they rediscover this brand.

  

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