It doesn't take much to make Irish coffee. Coffee (surprise!), whiskey, sugar, and cream. But, like anything you eat or drink, when you have the best ingredients, perfectly prepared, the simple can be extraordinary. This was the case when Jameson Irish Whiskey (no relation, but I am named after it) and Fonté Coffee joined forces at the latter's downtown Seattle cafe. I was privy to a creative combination of coffee and whiskey that complimented each other while still retaining the distinct flavors of each beverage.
Leave it to Team Fonte, consisting of Tyler Meurk, Lead Barista and Lead Trainier, and Jason Crume, Cafe Beverage Manager, to conduct a bit of a mad scientist experiment with finding the right coffee to go with the whiskey. While chatting about my namesake beverage with Sibéal Bird, Jameson Irish Whiskey Brand Ambassador for Oregon, Washington, and Minnesota, we were presented with not one, but two Irish coffees. What was the difference? The first one was a blend (F2) they use for straight espresso, and the coffee was made into an Americano. The second used a different blend, the Portofino, and was brewed using a French press. I preferred the latter as it was smoother and a little more coffee-dominated; the Irish coffee made with an F2 Americano was much more whiskey-dominated. (Not a bad thing!)
And, yes, there was a third Irish coffee. This one was the pinnacle of achievement in coffee and whiskey-based beverages. Made with Redbreast, a 12-year-old, single pot still Irish Whiskey. Fonté brought out the big guns (beans) for this Irish coffee made with the Redbreast: the Ethiopian Nekisse. A coffee described by Fonté as having "an earthy finish with notes of chocolate and raisins," it was perfect with the complex whiskey. As Sibéal noted, Redbreast has flavors that remind her of Christmas cake. You've got to love all those Christmas-y baking spices mingling with the chocolate and raisin notes of the the Irish coffee.