Erin De Santiago a RoamRight Blog Author

The Buena Vista Cafe: Bringing Authentic Irish Coffee To America

Irish coffee is a cocktail consisting of hot coffee, Irish whiskey, and sugar, stirred, and topped with thick cream

Photo Source: Flickr - Summer Park

If you've ever had an Irish coffee in Ireland and longed for a really good one stateside, consider a trip to San Francisco. The Buena Vista Cafe is home to one of the best Irish coffees I've ever tasted, and I'm certainly not alone in that opinion. The Buena Vista Cafe is credited with bringing Irish coffee to America, and they've perfected the craft over the past 60 years.

If you're already in San Francisco, the Buena Vista is easy to find. Hop on the Cable Car and head towards Fisherman's Wharf. Once you exit at the terminus at Hyde and Beach Streets, you can't miss the Buena Vista on the opposite corner.

The legend of the Irish coffee started one night back in 1952 when then owner Jack Koeppler challenged a local travel writer to help him recreate an Irish coffee he once tasted at Shannon Airport in Ireland.

After countless tastings, they concluded something was amiss. Aside from the taste being off, the cream would not float, causing Koeppler to hop a plane and go back to the Shannon Airport. The taste issue was corrected by picking the perfect Irish whiskey, and then they addressed the sinking cream. After taking the cream to the San Francisco mayor, who happened to be a dairy owner as well, they determined that aging the cream for 48 hours made all the difference.

Today, the Buena Vista sees a line on a daily basis of people who are anxious to enjoy a traditional Irish coffee. And, the recipe used today is the same recipe they developed back in 1952.

Watching the bartenders create an Irish coffee is impressive to watch. They don't just make one or two; it's a whole assembly line procedure to keep up with the orders continually rolling in. Evenings, especially on weekends, are standing room only, but the loyal patrons don't mind.

So, what exactly is the procedure to making an authentic Irish coffee? Fill the glass with hot water to pre-heat and then empty. Pour hot coffee and add two sugar cubes, stirring until dissolved. Add a jigger of Irish whiskey topped with a collar of lightly whipped cream gently poured over a spoon into the glass.

Buena Vista Cafe uses Peerless Coffee for its Irish coffee. John Vukasin, a Yugoslavian immigrant, settled in Oakland in 1924 with dreams of establishing a custom coffee roaster. Today, the Bay Area institution has been around for 90 years and is still family owned.

Provided you're lucky enough to snag a seat at Buena Vista Cafe, there is a full menu with a number of delicious breakfast, lunch, and dinner entrees as well. Breakfast is a popular option, but if you're not an early riser, you're in luck as Buena Vista serves breakfast all day long!

The Buena Vista Cafe is open daily, from 9 am until 2 am Monday through Friday, and weekends from 8 am until 2 am. And, if you find yourself still craving a final Irish coffee as you're ready to depart out of SFO, head to the United Terminal. There is a Buena Vista Cafe in the airport now where you can grab one last Irish coffee before heading home!

Please drink responsibly and use a designated driver, as your RoamRight policy does not cover loss resulting from or caused by being under the influence of alcohol.

Where is your favorite quirky cafe?

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About the Author

Erin De Santiago

Erin De Santiago, a RoamRight Blog Author Erin is a travel and food writer who currently splits her time between the Netherlands and Belize. She's traveled to 60+ countries on 5 continents with a passion for culinary travel, luxury hotels, and all things Disney. Her writing has appeared in numerous online outlets including Gadling, BootsnAll, CNN, Art of Backpacking, TravBuddy, CBS, and more. She was the major author of Belize's official visitor magazine, Destination Belize 2013; wrote the official AFAR Guide to Belize; and is also AFAR Magazine's local Belize expert.. In addition to writing for other publications, Erin maintains several blogs, Our Tasty Travels, No Checked Bags, Pooh's Travels, and the brand new Caye To Belize. Follow Erin on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus.

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