Irish Coffee Benefits

Irish Coffee Benefits and Side Effects

Table of Contents

Irish coffee has become a beloved after-dinner tradition for good reason. This warming, creamy drink not only satisfies your sweet tooth but may also impart some potential health benefits when enjoyed in moderation. Let’s explore the side effects, and the health benefits of Irish coffee, from ellagic aid and boosting good HDL cholesterol levels to blood clothing.  

What is Irish Coffee?

Before diving into the benefits, it’s essential to understand what makes up this iconic drink. Irish coffee is a beloved after-dinner drink that combines coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar, and freshly whipped cream. This classic recipe was invented in 1943 at Foynes Port in Ireland when a chef whipped up the drink to warm up some cold and weary airplane passengers. Since then, Irish coffee, an espresso-based coffee drink, has spread in popularity around the world as a comforting, indulgent treat.

Irish Coffee Benefits Based on Ingredients

There are 4 main ingredients, each with its own characteristics, benefits, and side effects in Irish Coffee:

  1. Coffee
  2. Irish Whiskey
  3. Sugar
  4. Cream


1. Coffee Benefits

Coffee forms the base of Irish coffee. This popular beverage has been enjoyed for centuries and is known for providing a burst of energy. 


Caffeine Content

The key source of coffee’s energizing effects is caffeine. When consumed in moderate amounts, caffeine can help increase alertness, focus, and concentration. It works by blocking adenosine, a neurotransmitter that signals tiredness. This leads to reductions in fatigue.

Studies indicate that caffeine may also:

– Enhance mood and wellbeing
– Improve cognitive performance and memory
– Support liver function
– Boost athletic performance and endurance


Coffee is a top source of antioxidants in the diet. The antioxidants found in coffee include polyphenols and hydrocinnamic acids. Research indicates that in humans, the antioxidant content is significantly higher in those who drink coffee compared to those who do not. Antioxidants help protect cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. This type of damage has been linked to aging and several chronic diseases. The antioxidants in coffee may help reduce inflammation and protect blood vessels, potentially lowering the risk of heart disease.

Chlorogenic Acids

Certain antioxidants found almost exclusively in coffee are known as chlorogenic acids. In particular, in studies, caffeic acid and ferulic acid have been associated with anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anticancer, and neuroprotective activities. Chlorogenic acids may also help promote weight loss by modifying fat and carbohydrate metabolism.


Diterpenes such as cafestol and kahweol provide some of coffee’s characteristic aroma and flavor. Research indicates these compounds may help protect the liver, demonstrating anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticarcinogenic properties.


This alkaloid compound is present in coffee in small amounts. Early research suggests it may assist in glucose metabolism and, therefore, help regulate blood sugar levels.

2. Irish Whiskey Benefits

Irish whiskey adds a smooth flavor and a warming sensation to Irish coffee. But it also provides its own set of healthy components. Irish whiskey is made from a mash of malted barley, unmalted barley, water, and yeast. Then, it is distilled and aged in wooden casks. The whiskey takes on flavors from the wood over time. This process results in some unique health-promoting compounds.

Ellagic Acid

Ellagic acid is an antioxidant found naturally in many fruits and vegetables. It also occurs in oak; therefore, whiskey aged in oak barrels contains ellagic acid. This potent antioxidant demonstrates anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects in research studies. It does this by binding to carcinogens and protecting healthy cells. Moderate whiskey consumption may help increase ellagic acid levels in the body.


Grain fibers contain lignans, which carry antioxidant and phytoestrogen properties. During the fermentation and distillation involved in making whiskey, lignans are condensed into the final spirit. These compounds may contribute to anti-tumor abilities.

Other Polyphenols

Polyphenols are micronutrients packed with antioxidants. Along with ellagic acid and lignans, Irish whiskey contains various other polyphenols from the grains used in production. These include proanthocyanidins, catechins, and flavonoids. Together, these polyphenols supply antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and blood vessel-protecting benefits.

HDL Cholesterol

Studies indicate that moderate whiskey intake may boost “good” HDL cholesterol levels. HDL cholesterol ferries cholesterol out of arteries, helping lower plaque buildup. Higher HDL levels are associated with excellent heart health. Irish whiskey’s ability to raise HDL cholesterol depends partly on its alcohol content.

Blood Clotting

Irish whiskey contains salicylic acids that may work as natural blood thinners. These compounds inhibit platelet aggregation, which could prevent dangerous blood clots that lead to strokes or heart attacks.

Blood Flow

Whiskey acts as a vasodilator, meaning it widens blood vessels to increase circulation. The flavonoids in whiskey enhance this vasodilating effect. Improved blood flow allows oxygen and nutrients to reach the body’s tissues more efficiently.

Blood Pressure

When consumed responsibly, whiskey only creates small fluctuations in blood pressure. However, those with hypertension could potentially experience a concerning spike from whiskey. For those with normal blood pressure, the polyphenols in whiskey may help support healthy circulation.

3. Sugar

In the context of Irish coffee, this sugar addition is not a major concern. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to about 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day for women and 36 grams (9 teaspoons) daily for men. A single Irish coffee would provide around 4 grams of added sugar, depending on the exact recipe. Consumed occasionally, it can fall into recommended limits for added sugars in the diet.

Drinking coffee without any sugar has its benefits as well. Sugar may mask bitter compounds in coffee that are thought to support liver function and fat burning. Different types of black coffee also require you to acquire a taste for the full flavor of the brew. This allows you to better appreciate coffee’s nuances.

4. Cream Benefits

Lightly whipped heavy cream tops off Irish coffee with a frothy, rich crown. This small dose of dairy provides creaminess and additional sweetness. From a health perspective, the fat in heavy cream may have some benefits:


Slows Alcohol Absorption

Consuming cream with whiskey can slow the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into your system. Alcohol absorption happens quickly on an empty stomach. The fat content of cream helps slow down this process, allowing for a more gradual, moderate blood alcohol level.

Provides Essential Nutrients

Heavy whipping cream is full of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. It also contains calcium, phosphorus, and selenium. Just a couple of tablespoons offer a significant dose of these nutrients.

Contains Healthy Fats

Heavy cream provides medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) like lauric acid. Though high in calories, these saturated fats may offer cognitive benefits, promote weight loss, and reduce risk factors for heart disease in some people.

Can Aid Satiety

Thanks to its high fat and protein content, a few tablespoons of heavy cream can leave you feeling full and satisfied. This may curb overconsumption of calories from other foods and drinks.

Potential Drawbacks of Irish Coffee

Alcohol content: Irish coffee does contain a hearty pour of whiskey, so the drink is rather boozy. Consuming too many could lead to intoxication or impaired judgment.
Disrupts sleep: The caffeine in Irish coffee may make it harder to fall asleep if consumed late at night. The stimulant effects on sleeping counteract the drowsiness caused by alcohol.
High in calories: Whipped cream, whiskey, and sugar all add up in calories. Those watching their sugar and fat intake should enjoy Irish coffee in moderation.
Requires effort: Irish coffee takes some time to prepare properly. From brewing fresh coffee to whipping the cream to carefully pouring the whiskey, it’s not a quick weeknight drink.
Potential for spills: Between the hot liquid and the whipped cream towering on top, Irish coffees can be precariously prone to spilling, especially if overfilled.

Putting It All Together

Enjoyed occasionally, Irish coffee can be a pleasantly warming and energizing treat. The ingredients come together to provide a multitude of potential health benefits:

– Coffee supplies caffeine, antioxidants, and plant compounds that may boost energy, mood, liver function, and focus

– Irish whiskey features antioxidants like ellagic acid that could help reduce inflammation and protect cells

– A small amount of sugar balances out coffee’s bitterness for palatability

– Cream offers fat-soluble vitamins and slows alcohol absorption

Was this article helpful?
Thanks for Your Feedback!

Follow Us for More News about Coffee World