Sunday, November 09, 2008

Getting Your Irish Up

In which we booze it up, S.F style
Those who know San Francisco know it to be a city of epic boozers. My father recently sent me a beautifully preserved copy of a book of articles by the late San Francisco columnist, Charles McCabe, entitled "The Good Man's Weakness." McCabe haunted saloons from the old Barbary Coast to Yorkshire, writing affably if not exactly eloquently about their environs and inhabitants.

McCabe, were he alive today, would be celebrating, because Monday is the 56th anniversary of the day when the Buena Vista Cafe -- a venerable San Francisco watering hole opened in 1916 near the Wharf -- poured its first Irish Coffee. Fifty-six is not usually considered a banner anniversary, but it is a good excuse for the Buena Vista to go on a three-day bender in celebration.

Contrary to popular belief, the Irish Coffee was not exactly born at the Buena Vista, though it was there where it was perfected. It was another San Francisco author of column inches, Stanton Delaplane, who first brought the concoction from olde Eire to these shores. He brought it to the Buena Vista and, in an effort to improve upon the original, nearly drank himself to death one night, almost falling asleep on the Hyde Street Railroad's cable car tracks.

The secret to Delaplane's Irish? Its float of heavy cream on top. For purists, of which I count myself a member, sweetened whipped cream from a can won't do, and God have mercy on the soul of anyone who would use Cool Whip. No, an Irish Coffee can have but three perfect ingredients: Strong black drip coffee, a shot of Irish and a float of freshly whipped heavy cream on top.


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