In Kongo’s monkey brain no trip to San Francisco is complete without spending a few hours at The Buena Vista located at the corner of Bay and Hyde. Kongo has been coming here for more than 30 years and it ranks as one of his all time top bars in the world. Some say that the Irish Coffee was invented at the Buena Vista. It wasn’t. The Buena Vista stole the recipe from the lounge at the airport in Shannon, Ireland and made it famous but over the years the Buena Vista and Irish Coffee have pretty much become synonymous.
The Buena Vista sits next to the end of the cable car line at the bottom of Russian Hill overlooking San Francisco Bay. It is not a large place and by mid-afternoon it is almost always packed but don’t let that discourage you. The crowd is what makes the Buena Vista special. Tables are shared so when you see an open seat just sit down. Soon you will have a whole new group of friends! Kongo has met fascinating people from all over the world at the Buena Vista.
Some people order drinks other than Irish Coffee. Kongo never really understood that. It would be like going to Italy and ordering Colonel Sanders. Please, please, please do the Irish Coffee but they don’t do decaf so don’t even ask.
So, how do you make an authentic BV Irish Coffee? Fill a cocktail glass with hot water to preheat the glass. After about 30 seconds, dump out the hot water and drop in two sugar cubes. Fill the glass about two-thirds full with freshly brewed coffee and stir rapidly until the sugar dissolves. Add a shot of your favorite Irish whiskey. At the Buena Vista they use Tullamore Dew (and they go through about 100 bottles on a typical day!). Mix the coffee and Irish whiskey again. Finally, using handmade whipped cream, carefully slide the cream over a warm spoon to top off the glass. Be careful not to just dump the cream in. It needs to slide in gently without breaking up.
That’s it. It will give you a perfect BV Irish Coffee.
One of the best things about the Buena Vista is watching them actually make the Irish Coffees. When a good crowd is there the pros behind the bar make 20-30 at a time. Kongo made a movie of them making 25 at once on a recent Saturday. Check it out.
Travel safe. Have fun.