Randall Radic

Randall Radic is the author of a number of non-fiction books, including A Priest in Hell and The Sound of Meat. He lives in Northern California

Randall Radic has written 4 articles for SB Informer.
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Proper Branding: Consider the Irish

Proper branding can make or break any establishment.

Randall Radic

January 03, 2013

3.0/5.0 (2 votes total)

The Irish are a culture unto themselves.  They believe in leprechauns, love the color green, are fiercely independent (some might say stubborn), and wear funky-looking Irish Aran Sweaters. And oh yeah, they like to drink Irish Whiskey. Which brings up a question of paramount importance: Who served the first Irish Coffee in California?

It’s an important question because it not only affects bragging rights, but it impacts marketing and brand identity. Two factors that impact profit.

Tom Bergin’s Tavern, possibly.  The Tavern claims they began serving Irish Coffee in 1936, while the Buena Vista quoted November 10, 1952. And the year 1936 beats the year 1952 by a mile. 

But there’s a problem.  The Buena Vista has newspaper clippings from 1952, which sit inside fancy protective glass cases, which hang on the walls of the bar like diplomas in a doctor’s office – something to be proud of, the announcement of a sacred event.  And the clippings talk about the brand new drink called Irish Coffee that was being served at the BV Café on Hyde Street.  Whereas the Tavern, well, the Tavern has no such corroborating affidavits.  Of course, just because The Tavern isn’t wallpapered with newsprint doesn’t mean much. Maybe it simply means they have higher aesthetic standards. Or that they hired a better interior decorator. All in all, it’s an awkward situation that we don’t need to spend a lot of time on.

Now as to which of these two fine establishments serves “the best” Irish Coffee, it’s hard to say. It’s like trying to decide who’s the prettiest woman at a beauty pageant. They’re all gorgeous. What it comes down to in the end is taste. It’s a simple matter of taste. Some people prefer blondes, while others prefer brunettes. Some like blue eyes, others like brown eyes. 

Patrons of both establishments – the Buena Vista and The Tavern – proclaim their preference in no uncertain terms.  On the one hand, those who drink at the Buena Vista state that when one quaffs an Irish Coffee at the BV, one has found a prize too precious to sell.[1] To quote Tony the Tiger – he of the Frosted Flakes fame – “They’re greeaaaat!”

On the other hand, devotees of The Tavern assert that its Irish coffee is the beau ideal. There is no comparison. The Tavern’s Irish Coffee is a drink of unequalled excellence.  

One suspects that proximity narrows perspective. It’s an 8-hour drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco. And that’s if traffic is light, which, in California constitutes a miracle on the order of the Loaves and the Fishes. So it makes sense that the ‘best’ Irish Coffee just happens to be the one that’s closest.   

All that, to say this:  what it comes down to is bragging rights.  And since wise men shouldn’t go where angels fear to tread, it’s probably best to wiggle out of declaring a winner[2], and thus who has those bragging rights, by the simple, ingenious maneuver of concluding that California is the winner. California has the best Irish Coffee in the world. Not only the best, but two – count ‘em – places to get them: Tom Bergin’s Tavern and the Buena Vista Café.           


[1] Even the Tullamore Dew infused Irish Coffee is spectacular, although not quite as cashmere-like as the Cooley’s infusion.

[2] You may be asking yourself, does not the acceptance of a spurious perfection end the search for true perfection? Yeah, it probably does. The only excuse is that no one’s perfect.


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