For whatever reason (grey wet day) I've been craving an Irish coffee today. I don't have any cream in the house though, and it was far to wet between bus stop and flat to want to prolong the walk or brave the Christmas crowds, so I'll just be writing about one instead.
I might be wrong about this (I don't get out that much) but I don't think Irish coffees have been a cool thing for a very long time (in my head they belong to the same era as frozen Black Forest gateaux) but a good Irish coffee is a splendid drink and something that I periodically have a bit of a craze for.
I'm not fussy about the kind of glass it goes in, the kind of whisky used (nothing peaty or over proof, and Irish if available, but if not a scotch or bourbon seems a perfectly sensible route to take), the coffee, or the kind of sugar used (though a light brown sugar seems the obvious choice), or even the exact ratio's they come in. It's the cream that matters, and ruins so many Irish coffees. Whipped cream is cheating, it should be poured, and it should be poured because the best thing about this drink is the heat and pungency of the coffee cutting through the cold, heavy, cream. Whipped cream just doesn't work in the same way.
Trying to come up with a book to go with this particular drink wasn't easy at first, but then I looked up the history of the Irish coffee. Apparently, and I don't care if this is myth or fact, it was first served in the 1940's to some American travellers who had arrived tired and cold at what's now Shannon airport in Ireland. Cream, coffee, alcohol mixes seem to go back a good bit further than that though.
After that the choice was clear - Dorothy B. Hughes' 'The Blackbirder'. First published in 1943 it's a noirish thriller that sees Julie Guille entangled in a couple of murders and on the run from both the FBI and the Gestapo, seeking the help of the Blackbirder, a shadowy figure whispered about amongst refugees in the dimly lit bars of New York and Santa Fé. (All straight from the back blurb, it's a while since I read this one and the details are hazy).
This has to be the book to help me reclaim the Irish coffee - to return it to its role of comforting the cold and weary rather than as an after dinner overindulgence. It also means there's a perfume to go with it too... The iconic Vol de Nuit, which doesn't actually suit me (I'm clearly not daring or passionate enough) it always reminds me a bit of unwashed skin and clothes that have been slept in (not really dirty, but not clean either). It does fit with the idea of a chaotic flight through the sky to safety though.