In 1942 Joe Sheridan was a chef at the flying-boat seaport of Foynes. At this time all transatlantic passenger flights were undertaken by flying boat – a craft that enabled sea landings in the case of emergencies, such as poor weather or lack of fuel.
The flying boats carried some thirty people in an unpressurised cabin. As the flights lasted up to eighteen hours disembarking passengers were invariably cold and uncomfortable. The catering manager, Brendan O’Regan, spotted a need for something to warm and cheer the frozen transatlantic passengers while they waited for their onward flights. He asked Sheridan to develop something hot, alcoholic and with an Irish flavour.
Joe Sheridan came up with Irish Coffee, a hot drink consisting of coffee mixed with whiskey and sugar then topped off with half an inch of cream, through which the coffee is drunk. Even after conventional planes replaced flying boats after World War Two, Shannon airport was still used as a fuelling point, and Irish coffee continued to be extremely popular.
In the 1950s, Stanford Delaplane, a travel writer from the San Francisco Chronicle, was in transit and liked Irish Coffee so much that he decided to import it to the USA. However, his best efforts to make the cream float separately on the top proved unsuccessful and he returned to Shannon for a lesson from Sheridan.
Sheridan had to teach him the proper method. This involved warming the glass to prevent it from cracking, and then combining hot coffee and a measure of Irish whiskey. A tablespoon of sugar was mixed in, to make the coffee denser and enable the cream to float more easily. Finally the cream – double, probably slightly whipped – had to be poured over the back of a spoon to discourage mixing. Sheridan later went to California, where Irish Coffee is still extremely popular.