The Press: Delaplane's Dew

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On a chilly fall day at Shannon Airport five years ago, San Francisco Chronicle Columnist Stan ("Postcards") Delaplane stepped up to a bar for a bracer. From the other side, he was handed a drink he had never tasted before. Delaplane inquired and got—complete with an Irishman's flair for a tale—Bartender Joe Sheridan's explanation of the origin of the drink.

Back in San Francisco Columnist Delaplane remembered the drink and the story. In his column, he wrote: " 'Twas in the old days the flying boats were landing at Foynes—about '38 I should say; the passengers would come in by launch, shivering and shaking fit to die with cold. 'Surely,' said Joe Sheridan, 'we must invent a stirrup cup for the poor souls, and them not able to put their shivering hands in their pockets for a shilling to pay unless we warm them. What is more warming,' said Joe, 'than Irish whisky, smooth as a maiden's kiss? To take the chill off their poor shaking hands we will fill the glass with coffee black as Cromwell's heart, We will top it with a floating inch of Irish cream.' " The result: Irish coffee.

"What's Happening?" The memory of the drink was not enough for Columnist Delaplane. One night at San Francisco's Buena Vista bar, he showed the bartender how to make Irish coffee.* The drink that Columnist Delaplane mixed (and reported in his column), packed a wallop felt far from San Francisco.

A few weeks after Delaplane's demonstration came a startled cable from Ire land to a San Francisco liquor importer: WHAT'S HAPPENING? The answer: Dela plane had touched off a craze for Irish coffee. In San Francisco's Buena Vista bar alone, consumption of Irish whisky leaped from two cases a year to 1,000 cases, an average of 700 Irish coffees a day. Visitors from some 40-odd cities where Delaplane's column runs turned up in droves to sample the magic dew. The consumption of Irish coffee has become so great that exports of Irish whisky to the U.S. increased 40% last year, to 10,000 cases. In Manhattan, bistros from Pat Moriarty's Chop House (price: 85¢) to the 21 Club (price: $1.75) have begun ladling out Irish coffee.

TV Star Jack Webb built an entire Dragnet around Irish coffee. From Ireland came Count Cyril McCormack, John's son, sales director of John Locke & Co. Irish distillery, to see what was going on at the Buena Vista. From the Buena Vista, Bartender Jack Koeppler made a pilgrimage to Ireland and was guest of honor at a luncheon tendered by Deputy Prime Minister William Norton. "I might have been Saint Patrick himself, come to throw the snakes out," says Washington-born German-descended Bartender Koeppler.

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