Buena Vista Cafe
It’s a rite of passage as a San Franciscan (or tourist, for that matter) to crowd up to the bar at Buena Vista mid-morning and sip on a piping hot Irish Coffee. It’s the birthplace of the boozy beverage (in America), after all, and these bartenders have been mixing them up assembly line-style since 1916. Sure, it’s inconveniently located in Fisherman’s Wharf, but it’s worth the trek for that signature mix of Irish whiskey, coffee, sugar, and cream in those delicate vintage glasses.
The Irish coffee actually lives up to the hype at The Buena Vista, which first brought the boozy brew to San Francisco in 1952, replicating the signature drink of Shannon Airport in Ireland. The bartenders deftly sling hundreds of Irish coffees a day, lining up heated, six-ounce Georgian Irish coffee glasses on the bar and making them in an assembly line with military-like precision and unbelievable speed. Sugar, Irish whiskey (points for using Tullamore Dew over Jameson), and freshly brewed coffee are topped with a float of chilled, lightly aerated heavy cream. The first sip of cold, fatty cream contrasted with bold, hot coffee and the burning kick of Irish whiskey is always the best, before the cream melts into the drink. Keep chasing that first sip by ordering another.