It’s getting to that time of year where we want to start drinking a slightly heartier and winterier liqueur as the seasons change and temperatures drop - why not switch out that fruity and refreshing limoncello for a rich Irish cream? Irish cream is the perfect liqueur for those cosy winter evenings, just as delicious drunk straight, on the rocks, in a cocktail or splashed in a warm drink to give it a bit of a kick and sweetness. If you’re not quite sure what Irish cream is, or how best to enjoy it, we’ve got you covered! We’re going to answer all of the most frequently asked questions about Irish cream and share some of our favourite recipes that showcase this rich and creamy liqueur.
What is Irish cream?
First thing’s first, let’s go over the ingredients used to make Irish cream. As the name suggests, Irish cream is a cream and Irish whiskey liqueur, and those are the two fundamental components. The process of blending these two ingredients requires the aid of an emulsifier. Other flavourings are often added, such as coffee, vanilla and chocolate, and the choice of flavour combination and how strong they come through in the liqueur varies from brand to brand.
That brings us onto the next important thing to know about Irish cream: different brands. Don’t forget that there are loads of different brands to choose from and try, such as Carolan’s, Kerrygold, Molly’s, O’Darby and St.Brendan’s to merely scratch the surface. However, Baileys is of course the most famous and is the only Irish cream to make it onto every list of the top liqueurs, and there is definitely good reason for its popularity.
Baileys was the first Irish cream to appear, gracing the world of liqueurs in 1973, and many argue that its richness and warm notes of honey and vanilla are unrivaled by any other cream liqueur available. While the exact recipe is a well kept secret, we do know that Baileys opts for cocoa extract, sugar and herbs as the main other ingredients alongside the whiskey and cream. The proof of Baileys’ widespread popularity is in the numbers: Since its invention 45 years ago, it is estimated that a staggering 1,250,000,000 bottles of Baileys have been sold, and if all have been drunk, that means that roughly 12 billion glasses of the delicious liqueur have been enjoyed the world over.
In an article for the Irish Times, Dave Gluckman shares the incredible story of how he and his partner Hugh Reade Seymore-Davies created the drink. He describes the wave of excitement at the prospect of their idea to mix dairy and whiskey that took them to a small shop where they bought a bottle of Jamesons Irish Whiskey and a tub of single cream. In their kitchen, they mixed the two and tasted the creation, which Gluckman admits was ‘bloody awful’, but an intriguing substance nonetheless. Their enthusiasm unfazed by the taste, they sweetened the mixture with some sugar which was a step in the right direction. The final touch though, the redeeming piece de resistance, was the Cadbury’s Powdered Drinking Chocolate which turned the concoction into a winning formula. After pitching it, branding and developing the recipe, Baileys was born.
Q: Can I get drunk on Irish cream?
This is an understandable uncertainty - Irish cream somehow manages to taste stronger than it is while also being so delicious and easy to drink that you almost forget it contains any alcohol altogether but it does contain whisky so the answer is yes, you can get drunk from drinking Irish cream!
Q: How much alcohol is in it?
A: Irish creams (depending on the brand) are between 15% and 20% in alcohol content - Baileys falls somewhere in the middle, at 17%
Q: How do I store it?
A: Unlike most other liqueurs, Irish cream has a high dairy and sugar content so you have to be careful about how you store the bottle before and especially after it’s been opened to avoid it going off. The alcohol in the liqueur does act as a natural preservative, so refrigerating the bottle is a good way to keep it fresh but is not a necessity. Do make sure to reseal the bottle tightly and keep your Irish cream out of warm locations and don’t expose it to any kind of heat.
Q: How long does it last?
A: In terms of shelf life, once a bottle has been opened, it can be kept for up to 2 years, however the quality will decline, so aiming for a benchmark of 6 months to 1 year is recommended. If you notice any kind of change in the smell, consistency, colour or taste, err on the side of caution and throw the bottle away.
Q: How many calories are in it?
A: With such a sweet flavour, and the word ‘cream’ in its name, a common query about this liqueur is how calorific is Irish cream? According to Weight Loss Resources, one serving of Baileys (37ml) contains 130 calories, 7.4 grams of carbohydrate and 5.8 grams of fat.
Q: How much does a bottle cost?
A: The price of a bottle of Irish cream varies from retailer to retailer. A 70cl bottle of Baileys Original Irish cream costs between £12-£15. Other brands are slightly cheaper, Molly’s and Carolan’s Irish creams for example will only set you back about £9, but they might be less readily available than Baileys, which you can be pretty sure will be sold in every supermarket across the UK. Some retailers will also often have their own brand version of Irish cream if you’re looking to tighten the pursestrings; Tesco’s own Irish cream is only £7 for 70cl, and Sainsbury’s version is even less, at £6.75.
Q: Can I make my own?
A: You can make your own Irish cream at home, but it’s not quite as easy as just mixing cream and Irish whiskey! The basics you’ll need are 1⅔ cups of your favourite Irish whiskey, 1 cup of cream, 1 can of sweetened condensed milk. For the flavouring, you’re free to change the quantities to adapt your homemade creation to your personal tastes, but here’s a rough idea of how you could flavour your Irish cream: 3 tablespoons of chocolate syrup, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon of instant coffee. Blend all the ingredients together until nice and smooth, and remember to store it in a tightly sealed bottle!
Irish Cream Cocktails & Drinks
Irish cream liqueur is wonderfully versatile. It’s so rich and full of flavour, so one of the best ways to drink it is straight or over ice, and just savour the taste of the liqueur. It’s also great as an ingredient in shooters, cocktails and warm drinks like coffee and hot chocolate. Here are a few of our favourites!
Irish Cream Coffee
This recipe is so simple and a really fun way to add a touch of creamy alcoholic sweetness to your coffee. The recipe essentially just consists of using Irish cream instead of milk and sugar! Leave it to cool and then add to a glass of ice for an iced Irish cream coffee.
Irish Cream Hot Chocolate
This warm and sweet comfort drink is perfect for a cosy night in - think fluffy slippers by the fire. Pour your Irish cream into a tall glass, and then make your hot chocolate in a separate mug, and pour into the Irish cream glass when finished. Top with whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles and marshmallows to give yourself an extra treat!
Using Irish cream liqueur instead of normal cream, the mudslide shares a lot of the same ingredients as a classic White Russian. Simply blend 30ml of Irish cream, 30ml of vodka and 30ml of coffee liqueur like Kahlua and 30ml of milk or cream until smooth and serve over ice for a cocktail with a kick.
Irish Cream Chocolatini
This is the perfect cocktail for anyone with a sweet tooth who wants to combine pudding time and cocktail hour. Pour 75ml of Irish cream, 25 ml of vodka and a splash of chocolate syrup into a shaker, along with some ice cubes. Shake until smooth and creamy, serve in a cocktail glass and garnish with chocolate drops, shavings or powder, et voila!
With only two ingredients, this cocktail is incredibly quick and easy to create. Simply mix 30ml of Irish cream liqueur and 30ml of hazelnut liqueur and pour over ice for a nutty and creamy treat.
As its name suggests, this sumptuous cocktail will definitely leave you feeling satisfied. There are many variations of this cocktail, from the Screaming Orgasm to a Chocolate and Orange Orgasm, but to create the classic version, pour 30ml of coffee liqueur, 30ml of amaretto liqueur and 30ml of Irish cream liqueur into a shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain the drink into a glass of ice and enjoy!
Irish cream is a well known Christmas favourite, so if you are looking for some other creamy or spicy festive recipes, check out our blog Oh, Come All Ye Thirsty – Three Fab Cocktails for the Christmas Season!