Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Buena Vista
San Francisco, CA
Review by MaceVindaloo, SuSu, LawrenceEugene




We all know what an Irish coffee is in the United States. It's normally a dessert drink, it's a milky coffee with sugar and whiskey. It's rather frou frou, depending on whether whipped cream from a can is sprayed on top, and the weird tall glass that normally holds the brew in most family-style eateries.

Historically, Irish coffee was invented at the Shannon Airport in Ireland (or perhaps Foynes), the stopping point for trans-Atlantic flights, and later for airlines like Aeroflot. The story goes that in the 1940s, a warming brew was invented to complement (or counteract) the "refreshing" north Irish climate. It was dubbed Irish coffee, as Brazilian coffee was from Brazil. Then in San Francisco's similar-to-that-Irish-weather in November, Joe Sheridan visited San Francisco, and showed the recipe to the Buena Vista barman.

Another interesting detail — though Joe Sheridan seemed to have no problem creating this "black as death" drink with a layer of cream floating on top of it. Note, it's not a milky tan coffee; it's a concoction of black coffee, whiskey, and sugar, with cream floating on top. This caused some problems. Apparently, the cream kept sinking, but the mayor of San Francisco — a dairyman — recommended using cream that "aged" at least 24 hours. This makes sense when you realize that cream is separated from milk be floating above it. The more time you give it, the more fat content of the cream, and the more likely it floats on a hot liquid (with alcohol added). Voilà!

The tavern is at the end of the Hyde Street cablecar route on the bay-end, and one of us ran into the bar to use the bathroom. Running through, we noticed that everyone was drinking the same thing, from the same style of glass. The others, waiting in the bar, noticed the same time, and we realized we had accidentally encountered the famous Buena Vista! So we ordered up.

It's odd that no one in this place was drinking anything else, but they really did a great job of the drink. They'd make dozens at a time, lining them up on the bar. Hot water was poured into the glasses to warm them before the drinks were constructed in the assembly line.

We hear they serve food here, but no one was having any. It was really all about the Irish Coffee. In this incarnation, it was delicious and rather a masculine, almost macho drink. It was delicious and we immediately started trying to look for the right type of glasses which could stand up to boiling hot liquids without being those tulip shaped glasses with the little O-shaped handles attached to the base. (We received them as a gift — they looked like wine glasses with a flattened disc on the stem stamped with a gold shamrock and the words "Irish Coffee." Check out the Corellirish Coffee recipe for our rendition, based entired on the Buena Vista's kicky soul-warmer.)

Finally, there were people traveling from all over for one or more samplings of this tipple. We sat by a guy who'd come from Texas. He was whiling away some time while waiting for his son, who was coming from North Carolina, to celebrate his birthday. He was very happy about this, and felt the trek was worthwhile. Slainté to him, and to the "real" Irish Coffee!


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