Matt Holden

Irish coffee prepared by Matt Perger.
Irish coffee prepared by Matt Perger.

Anyone who remembers the 1970s will remember Irish coffee, a brew - or is it a cocktail? - that consists of two parts Irish whiskey to four parts hot coffee, with a teaspoon of brown sugar stirred in and a float of fresh cream on top, according to the International Bartenders' Association. (The National Irish Coffee Day website - I'm not making this up - says two teaspoons of brown sugar.)

Irish coffee will feature in the World Coffee in Good Spirits championship at the Showgrounds this weekend, part of the Melbourne International Coffee Expo.

Melbourne's Matt Perger, who won the World Brewers Cup in 2012 and finished second in the World Barista Championships last year, will hope his Irish coffee wins the world title for Irish coffee when he represents Australia in the competition. Perger says one of the secrets to making good Irish coffee is to start with good coffee.

''Something rich and bold, like a Brazilian or a Colombian,'' he says.

''You don't want anything too delicate, as it just gets swamped. And you don't want bitter and roasty - you want a coffee that is big and sweet,'' he says.

Perger uses a double espresso shot watered down to long black strength, and just half a teaspoon of castor sugar rather than brown sugar: ''Castor sugar has less flavour. I want it for the sweetness.''

In winning the recent Australian championship he mixed a St Ali Brazil Rainha with Bruichladdich whisky.

Hey - isn't that scotch? Does that count?

''You can use any whiskey or whisky,'' Perger says. ''I used the scotch because it's low in peat, so the flavour isn't as smoky.''

But the real trick, Perger says, is the cream: ''There's a fair bit of skill involved in getting it to float on top of the drink undisturbed.''

For anyone who remembers Irish coffees piled with whipped cream, Perger has this to say: ''Don't use whipped! Just lightly shaken.''

The World Coffee in Good Spirits Championship, May 15-18 at Melbourne Showgrounds, Epsom Road, Ascot Vale.