Joe Keeper’s San Francisco Bar Crawl: The Buena Vista

Bar San Francisco


At The Buena Vista they get everything right. First off, there is no eating at the bar. This makes it easy to slip in past the hungry folk waiting for a table, pony up to the bar and drink the best Irish coffee in California. I would say on the entire planet but perhaps somewhere out there a better Irish coffee exists.

As cocktail lore has it, the Irish coffee was invented for cross-Atlantic travelers in the 1940s. Stanton Deleplane, a travel writer for the SF Chronicle, claimed to have been the one to convince the Buena Vista to start serving Irish coffee on November 10, 1952. For me, the Irish coffee is best enjoyed on a cool morning. If you dare to prepare it at home, here’s how to do it:

Use stemmed glass. Irish coffee served in a mug is wrong. Very wrong. Prepare your black coffee. Place a teaspoon of sugar in the bottom of the glass. Add 2 or 3 parts coffee, one part Tullamore Dew Whiskey and top with one part lightly whipped unsweetened cream. From a chemistry perspective, the sugar is supposed to keep the cream floating on top of the mix. The cream is dropped on top of the coffee forming a head, giving it the appearance of a properly poured Guinness. Some like to slowly pour the cream over a spoon.

The Buena Vista uses Tullamore Dew Whiskey. So you should too. One of Ireland’s finest and most widely distributed whiskeys, Tullamore Dew was first distilled in 1829 in the small town of Tullamore in County Offaly in the heart of Ireland. The name derives from the initials of an early owner, Daniel E Williams – DEW. Subtle, smooth and with a pleasant maltiness combined with charred wood undertones and the natural flavor of golden barley.

If you visit Fisherman’s Wharf, don’t miss The Buena Vista.

Joe Keeper owns Bar Keeper in Silver Lake

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