Actress Maureen O'Hara who played the part of Kate Danaher in the film The Quiet Man will be guest of honour at the Foynes Irish Coffee Festival this weekend.
The west Limerick town is the home of the famous coffee concoction. It dates from the days of the flying boats when the mixture of coffee, whiskey, cream and sugar provided sustenance against a chilly transatlantic flight.
Ms O'Hara has kept up an association with Foynes since 1993. Through her marriage to the late Capt Charles Blair, a flying boat pilot and famous aviator, she learned of the town's aviation heritage. Capt Blair flew the last passenger flight from Foynes in 1945 and returned in 1976 in his Southern Cross flying boat. "Foynes was the first international airport in Ireland," said Ms Margaret O'Shaughnessy, festival director and curator of the town's flying boat museum.
She said the famous drink was invented by a chef named Joe Sheridan at the airport's restaurant. He served coffee with whiskey to passengers after their flight had to turn back due to bad weather, she said.
Asked by an American passenger whether it was Brazilian coffee, he replied it was "Irish coffee". Cream was later added to give the drink its distinctive visionary appeal and flavour. "It became the official welcoming drink and it still is at Shannon Airport," Ms O'Shaughnessy said.
This evening a world Irish coffee championship will be held, with entrants from New York, London, and Perth, along with Irish contenders. Contestants have been invited to invent a new Irish coffee. Among the other festivities will be the Munster Autotest Championship Round, organised by Limerick Motor Club this afternoon and street theatre, a regatta and fireworks tomorrow.
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